Driving Over Lemons by Chris Stewart
Man. I should have loved this book. When I pulled the off the shelf at Half Price Books I knew I had to have it. It was perfect for me. Not only was it a travel memoir, one of my great weaknesses, but it was a travel memoir about Spain. Add onto that a quirky story and I’m sold.
So what happened? Why am I not head over heels for this story? The writing was quite good, the descriptions were also nicely done. There is nothing glaringly obvious throughout the entire length.
The problem is that I just don’t care. Stewart, whether he meant to or not, kept me at arms length. I felt no suspense nor any struggle. All of the characters, especially his wife, were more supporting cast than ever having real personalities of their own (except maybe Romero). At times he hinted at disappointment or challenges but I never felt it. Everything that was hard seemed easy – something which moving to a falling down farm in the middle of rural Andalucia should never seem.
Maybe I should have known. After all, the title says “an optimist in Andalucia.” That optimism definitely permeated the book. The problem was it wasn’t just over Stewart. You could feel it over every moment and every character. It watered it down and even though he was writing about an area of the world near and dear to my heart, I found myself just not caring.
This may be a bold statement, but I feel while Stewart didn’t do anything wrong, he also didn’t do anything right with this book. Though maybe that’s harsh. There was one piece that touched me, toward the end. Stewart mentioned how he didn’t feel like he fit in until he let himself be an outsider. Those are his exact words, but they are close enough. I understand that completely. My first time in Spain I tried so hard to fit in – I bought all European clothes, did European things, etc. Of course, it didn’t work. Everyone spotted me as American, and treated me as such. When I went back years later and lived in Salamanca, I did nothing to hide my foreignness, and somehow I just fit better. It’s funny how it all works.
So, Stewart, I do thank you for the one spark of inspiration in the whole of the book. However, even with that, I just can’t lay my recommendation to it.