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Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite
Chasing Zorba: A Journey of Self-Discovery in a VW Bus, by Jerry Steimel, is an intriguing travelogue of introspection and fulfilling a lifelong dream. The Vietnam War is a powder keg in America, along with other social issues, and the author has just finished college. It's 1972, and he launches into a road trip in his 1966 Volkswagon Beetle, aka Zorba, so named because he was inspired philosophically by the literary figure to live in the moment and be fearless. He has the country spread out before him and hopes for true adventure, traveling country roads, leaving Kentucky behind for better insight into who he is and who he might become. California is his goal and it's a long way off. But the journey was over after a VW malfunction and an unfruitful 30-day stay in Florida. He had to return home and pack away his dream in favor of a social work career and a family life. Skip ahead forty-five years and he picked up his dream again in 2017, finding a VW bus and heading out.
Steimel's writing is engaging and friendly, pulling readers into the scenes right away, offering insightful observations during the author's road trip. Does he have the same mindset? He's older now; retired. Is he wiser? Is he still idealistic? Has the country changed over the years? I like the bird's-eye-view you get of the author's life, and the various cultures around America, his discoveries, disappointments, and memories. His personal anecdotes give you a chance to get inside the author's skin and experience things the way he did, and the images are a nice addition. This is an insightful slice-of-life memoir that holds a mirror up to America's politics, culture, people, and the author himself. Steimel's sense of humor is a constant thread that runs through the narrative. You will experience the ups with the downs, and, being a former social worker, I felt a sort of connection with the author. By the time you reach the end of Chasing Zorba by Jerry Steimel, you may feel as though you've just finished "The Great American Novel" in non-fiction form.