Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Last Bus to Coffeeville Virtual Summer Road Trip!

Today I am delighted to host the final stop on the @noexitpress Last Bus to Coffeeville Virtual Summer Road Trip!

Throughout July and August, bloggers from all over Europe have been posting reviews, interviews and #Coffeeville inspired features as they discuss this brilliantly original debut novel by J. Paul Henderson.

The Novel

The subtitle of Last Bus to Coffeeville proposes it to be 'a funny story about sad things' - a description that is completely apt. Having grown up watching her grandmother and mother suffer with Alzheimer's, Nancy decides she does not want to face the same fate and calls upon her best friend and college lover, Gene, to help. She makes him promise to put an end to her suffering if and when she begins to lose her memory.  Little does Gene know that after years of living separate adult lives, he will be called upon to uphold his promise. But when Nancy is admitted to the secure unit of a nursing home, Gene's plan to fulfil her wishes by taking her to her favourite place, Coffeeville, is hindered. That's until he enlists the help of his godson Jack, and their old friend, Bob, to break Nancy out.

On a tour bus once stolen from Paul McCartney, Nancy, Gene, Bob, Jack and Eric - a young orphaned boy who the group take under their wing -  embark on an unforgettable journey through the South, from Hershey, Pennsylvania, to Coffeeville, Mississippi.  Cue an extremely funny string of events that unfold in a style that many have likened to Jonas Jonasson's The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared.

As the roadtrip takes the clan through the heart of the South, Henderson's impeccable research and skill at merging history with fiction stands out. This novel not only addresses the themes of euthanasia, love and friendship, but ingeniously traverses important moments in 20th century American history, from the civil rights movement, through popular culture, to Hershey chocolate. You can see more about the places that the characters visit by clicking on the map below (but you should definitely read the book first!):  

Click here for the interactive map

What I loved most about Last Bus to Coffeeville, and what I think makes it unique, is the way in which Henderson offers the back stories of all of the characters one by one as they merge and culminate into this one final dysfunctional family of misfits.  Each character is given his/her moment, and thus Henderson chronicles lives that seem far more real and vivid than just pieces of a plot.

I think this attention to detail is what makes it so successful at addressing the serious subject of Alzheimer's, too. Often diseases such as this are difficult to discuss due to their sensitive nature. Art has always been a way to tackle such topics, and J Paul Henderson touches upon this serious subject with a lightness and a respect that is remarkable.
This truly is a charming, uplifting and considered read. One that you will not regret!

The Author


J. Paul Henderson was born and grew up in Bradford, West Yorkshire, gained a Master’s degree in American Studies and travelled to Afghanistan. He worked in a foundry, as a bus conductor, trained as an accountant and then, when the opportunity to return to academia arose, left for Mississippi, returning four years later with a doctorate in 20th Century US History and more knowledge of Darlington Hoopes than was arguably necessary. (Hoopes was a Pennsylvanian socialist and the last presidential candidate of the American Socialist Party). American History departments were either closing or contracting, so he opted for a career in academic publishing. He now lives in a house in England, drives a car and owns a television set. And that’s about it.

The Road Trip

Henderson's charm isn't unique to Last Bus to Coffeeville, either. Throughout the #Coffeeville Road Trip, this brilliant author has written features and given interviews with bloggers and, as you can see from the links below, his endearing, witty style simply permeates everything he writes.

But don't take my word for it, see what Henderson and the other #Coffeeville bloggers have to say by visiting:

1. Laura's Little Book Blog for Paul's perfect holiday
2. Cup of Coffee and a Book for Paul's top 10 favourite books
3. A Spoonful of Happy Endings to learn more about the interactive road trip map
4. Books, Biscuits and Tea for Paul's perfect road trip playlist
5. Writer's Little Helper for Paul's imaginary bookshop
6. Page to Stage Reviews for Paul's ultimate road trip
7. On My Bookshelf for a review and give-away
8. A Book and a Tea for some coffee inspired recipes - yum!
9. She Loves to Read for A Day in the Life of Paul
10. Reviewed The Book for a review
11. Laura's Little Book Blog for another review
12. Writer's Little Helper for, yes you've guess it, a review!

If these snippets of humour and humility haven't enticed you enough, the novel even has its own website over at Coffeeville.co. And when you're ready to jump on board the Last Bus to Coffeeville, you can purchase it here.

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