2019 Book Review #7: To Shake the Sleeping Self by Jedidiah Jenkins
To Shake the Sleeping Self by Jedidiah Jenkins
Finished Feb. 15, 2019, took 11 days to read
2 Stars on Goodreads
Rating 7/7 for 2019 overall, 2/2 for Non- Fiction
Let me preface this by stating that I feel bad for the review I am about to write. I realize this is a memoir about someone's journey, which was likely emotional, passionate, and life-changing. But unfortunately, that doesn't translate to a book. And now I am about to crap all over that book.
Jedidiah is a non-profit lawyer who reaches the conclusion that he is not ready to settle down into normal life. He decides to bike from Oregon to Patagonia, which is an incredibly interesting and challenging goal. And he did it! I applaud his efforts and amazing commitment to that journey. But why did this need to be a book?
Reading To Shake the Sleeping Self was like watching a slide show of someone else's international trip. Is anyone else a child of the 80s? Do you remember sitting through "slides" of your parents' trips? To Shake the Sleeping Self was an indulgent slide show, with very little meat for a reader to grasp on to and enjoy.
I thought things might get interesting when Jedidiah discussed his struggles with being gay and Christian, but that did not really go anywhere. He might have experienced mind blowing epiphanies on his bicycle, but that did not translate on the page. He had a friend on the trip, Weston, who had completely different goals and intentions for the trip. Weston wanted to prove he could this trip with minimal cash and avoid capitalism, but Jedidiah wanted to have a life changing journey with creature comforts. Why would two people like that travel together? It made no sense.
The book alludes to how his journey made Jedidiah Instagram famous. He has hundreds of thousands of followers now. Cool, that happens, and probably got him his book deal. He takes good photos and had an interesting journey. Out of curiosity, I scrolled all the way back through to his 2014 trip. Holy heck, the trip posts look like a self-indulgent whiny millennial screaming LOOK AT ME AND MY EXISTENTIAL CRISIS. And I can say that because I am a self-indulgent whiny millennial (okay I am Xennial) . Apparently Jedidiah knows multiple celebrities now and they even participated on the trip. No mention of this in the book, which makes me think the book is giving a different impression of him than he portrays on Instagram.
Several times in the book, his tone gave me serious pause. He seems passionately unhappy and easily angered by other people, including his travel mate and strangers he met along the way. For example,, at one point he wrote:
"We stayed there a few days, snorkeled, met some forgettable Americans, and then headed back to the mainland."
Why include the part of about forgettable Americans? Why be mean-spirited like that for no reason? That "I'm better than you" attitude was such a turn off to me.
I picked up this book because I love a good travel memoir. This was a good lesson that people who are good at Instagram do not necessarily need book deals. Jedidiah Jenkins is a decent enough writer, but I felt zero connection with this book. I was in Argentina last month for two weeks, and I didn't connect with the book even when the author was in the exact same place I was a few weeks ago. Madness.
I would not recommend this book to anyone I know, unless they were actually thinking of biking in South America. But now I want to talk to someone else who read it just so I can work through the self-indulgent nature of the whole novel.
Ugh. I knew I would hit a dud sooner or later on my reading list!