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Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite
Monkeys on the Road: One Family's Vanlife Adventure South in Search of a Simpler Life by Mary Hollendoner is the award-winning part memoir, part travelogue of one American family's trip to the most southern point on the globe--fun, funny, heartwarming, heart-pounding--a rollercoaster ride in a van. Destination: South America. A daunting task for a jobless family going by van with their six-year-old child. They expected a few hiccups, but this may be more than they bargained for. Mary and her husband John decided to ditch their old life and set out for new horizons, hoping to reconnect again with what was most important in their lives: A sense of family, quality time together, and a life of adventure. This three-and-a-half-year journey brought them in touch with new people, beautiful nature, some danger, and life-changing memories, from small villages to wild animals to police searches. Then comes COVID-19.
Hollendoner writes in such a personal way that you feel as if you know her family. As you read, you imagine how you and your own family would react and interact on a trip like this. I like the range of emotions, going from tense situations to those that allow you to relax and catch your breath. At the heart of it is their family, and their yearning to hold on to what they have before it slips away. Another appealing aspect is the travel itself. You may never travel in a van, or even venture outside your country, but you can visit these places vicariously and get an idea of the locations, people, and cultures--so this book is as educational as it is entertaining. The book has an even pace, and we become familiar with Mary's "voice" as she shares her family's stories. You can't help but think that their daughter Lilly's experiences shaped her in good ways, and there are plenty of images to accentuate the text. If you like stories of travel and self-discovery, Monkeys on the Road by Mary Hollendoner is one you don't want to miss.