The Misadventures of Rusty Kenneficke, Keith Thye’s fictional tale based on actual people and events, is a journey of self-discovery for a 37-year-old, down-on-his-luck writer who hopes to find inspiration for his next book by traveling the West in an RV. Ultimately, he realizes his road adventure is merely a well-intentioned means of avoidance.
The story juxtaposes Rusty’s physical journey in search of inspirational subject matter with his inner thoughts about the nowhere direction his life is taking him. Details such as Rusty’s use of a portable typewriter and conversations referencing the Vietnam war, the Three Mile Island disaster and movies of the day, all help capture the book’s late ’70s timeframe.
Unlike many travel tales led by the beauty of landmarks and the surrounding environment, the story focuses mostly on the ill-fated circumstances that appear to follow Rusty everywhere. From typical misjudgments in maneuvering a motor home to a major mishap with his father’s beloved “Black Torpedo” boat and a boiling egg incident that nearly burns down a house, humor and trepidation arise amidst Rusty’s “sometimes I wonder what my problem is…” ponderings. While Rusty finds camaraderie and friendship among fellow RV travelers, some prove more troublesome, harboring criminal intentions.
Thye presents rewarding moments, particularly when Rusty bonds with his father. Unfortunately, the novel feels repetitive as Rusty regales family, friends, and acquaintances with the snags he’s encountered during his travels. Additionally, while dialogue lends insight into the characters Rusty meets, sometimes less effective exposition describes these informational exchanges. Finally, although Rusty often seems like a likable character who just can’t catch a break, he isn’t entirely sympathetic; incidents involving excessive drinking can make him seem over-indulgent and responsible for his own bad luck. Ultimately, his continuing travails grow wearisome.
The author indicates this is the first of a trilogy. Hopefully as the story progresses, Rusty will find value in lessons learned, entertain a more upbeat attitude, and start attracting more positive karma.
Also available in hardcover.