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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
In Risa August's memoir The Road Unpaved, Risa receives a diagnosis of a pituitary macroadenoma and acromegaly, then embarks on a cycling journey with a mixed bag of fellow riders, including guides Jimmy Buffett and Mama Bear, emotionally working through the end of her marriage and her brain tumor, humorously named "Bubba." The narrative shifts between past and present detail Risa's life, leading to the ride being juxtaposed against the ride itself. Through pain and personal issues, she finds solace in things, like a blueberry muffin, while reflecting on her past and things like her perfectionism as a wedding coordinator. Risa's ride is marked by mishaps, self-doubt, and bursts of camaraderie. In the end, she will be faced with decisions that will alter the course of her life off the road, but she must first arrive there.
There are so many elements of The Road Unpaved by Risa August that all collectively contribute to the excellence of her memoir, offering a multi-dimensional portrayal of her experiences, emotions, interactions, and personal growth throughout the journey. There are two journeys we are given here. The first is the cycling feat she commits herself to, and the second is her journey through a life-altering diagnosis and the impact it has on every facet of her life. Most of us are unable to imagine riding through the Western coastal states, but with August, it is authentic and relatable. There is a scene where a huge neon sign beckons her to donuts, and she breaks free from her typical dietary restrictions during the biking journey to indulge, encouraging others to join in. Her relationship woes with Addison and the frustration of a horrible connection at the wrong moment—well, we know what that's like. The writing is engaging, and August's evolving perspective on companionship and support, and the road to self-awareness and personal development make this book a ride that a reader definitely wants to be on. Very highly recommended.