Meanwhile, Smithy serves a tour of duty in Vietnam, is critically wounded and receives a purple heart. When he returns, life at home remains unchanged while he was gone. Smithy works at a dead-end job, smokes heavily, drinks heavily and becomes obese. He has no friends and there is no hope for the future.
He tells his tale as a man who has had no life of his own and who embarks on a quest to collect his dead sister’s remains. He rides across country from Rhode Island to California on his old childhood bike. He has little money, so he is reliant on the help of strangers who share their unorthodox experiences in life. These strangers demonstrate a range of emotions: empathy, anger, hatred and kindness toward him. As a result of this unusual journey, he is transformed.
This is a book that evokes emotions on many levels. Some readers will identify with what growing up in a family with a mentally-ill member is like. Other readers will be shocked to learn what it is like living with a schizophrenic sibling. Still other readers will see him as a product of his low self-esteem, low motivation and bad health habits. No matter how the reader sees Smithy, he tells a powerful story about family dynamics and their long-lasting effects on how one can unknowingly muddle through life.