The Starving Bibliophile

Books before food (and any sort of comfortable life).

I Guess We Missed the Boat: Book Review

I Guess We Missed the BoatName: I Guess We Missed the Boat
Author: Barry Finlay
Series: Stand-alone
Publisher: General Store Publishing House Inc.
Published: October 1st, 2013
Pages: 173
Format: Paperback, eBook, Kindle
Rating: 2/5

Summary: Eight diverse characters, related by marriage and often travelling together, visit multiple locales across the globe by every means of transportation available. The hilarious stories that arise in this romp around the world feature amateur mind control, mirrored hotel room walls, a 1957 Chevy with holes in the floor, an explosion of ladies’ lingerie, sketchy starfish, topless beaches, Bo Derek’s doppelgänger, synchronized pill popping, psychological bar fights, thieving baboons, and sexy giraffes. And the humour is perfectly balanced by Barry Finlay’s philanthropic heart, which beats strong through each journey.

I received this book to review from the author through Bostick Communications. All opinions are my own. You can also find this review on Goodreads here.

I Guess We Missed the Boat by Barry Finlay is a travel memoir chronicling his experiences from all over the world. Unfortunately, for a travel memoir that takes the reader to so many interesting places, it’s not exceedingly interesting.

The Plot: The book starts out with everyone in a hotel room, and the reader is quickly introduced to eight different people including the narrator. We’re given a description of each of them, and then Finley proceeds to explain how they’re all related. He talks about why they like to travel, where they’re from, and then swiftly changes topic to something that has nothing to do with anything that this book is supposed to be about.

An uncle of the three sisters was a tall, gruff man who loved life. […] At his funeral, the hearse was blocked by a parked car at the church as the rest of the procession headed off to the cemetery for the burial. […] The sisters agreed that this was the uncle’s last laugh as he somehow managed to orchestrate being late for his own burial.

There are quite a few times in the book that the “main story” got abandoned to tell a short side story. Speaking of the “main story”… there isn’t really one. This book just reads as dozens of small stories that don’t really connect to each other in any way. The book jumps from one story to the next with very little flow and sometimes with absolutely no reason at all. There were just so many odd things about this book, one which was the fact that about every 50 pages there was a random cartoon that went with that particular story, even if the story wasn’t interesting. I just didn’t get their purpose. And for the love of EVERYTHING, why were there so many exclamation points?

I like to t… t… t… TRAVEL!!
You haven’t lived, and possibly died, if you haven’t eaten poutine!
At least with the ski rental, your closest neighbor isn’t naked!
We grew up tough on the prairies!
It’s the bus rider’s version of the
Hunger Games!
There are even occasional acts of kindness!
The bus stopped and he got off!
Oh my God! I did it! I actually convinced him to get off the bus!
We were off to visit faraway places…with the in-laws!
It’s funny how our perspective about the word “old” changes as we age!
There’s always someone on the bus!
I even found out during our visit that I am of Scottish descent, so I should love the place!

Well… I was going to quote all the sentences with exclamation points within the first fifty pages, but then it got ridiculous! This is a little over half from the first thirty-five pages! I just really felt like the author was yelling at me the whole time! Unnecessary!

The Characters: I don’t know if the author doesn’t know how to write dialogue or what, but there were barely any conversations between characters. Throughout the story they were all sitting in a hotel room in Miami, Florida waiting until it was time to catch their flight home, talking about all their adventures during the years. Well, they would sometimes talk about their adventures. The author thought it might be better if the story ran like a gigantic monologue. You know, I think it would be better if I never had to work a day in my life and still be rich. But somehow, very much like this monologue-like writing, I don’t ever see that working out well. I never really got a sense of who the characters were since they were only briefly mentioned and each had very little dialogue.

Prose: There was so much freaking purple prose. Finlay spends a whole entire page describing how older people carry pill cases around with them and then take them out when they eat dinner.

In my mind’s eye, I can see the symphony playing in the background. With the imagined strains of Swan Lake and the soft lighting from the giant chandeliers overhead providing the ambience, it is like watching a synchronized swimming event. […] Opening the container brings about a look on the faces of the participants in this ritual like the face of Gollum upon seeing the shiny ring in the Lord of the Rings. “My Precious!!”

Umm… what? I think he’s trying to say that taking pills is like Lord of the Rings: The Synchronized Swimming Ballet. Right? Yes? That’s what I got from that.

The Stories: All the individual stories were very anti-climactic. There’s a story about how the author and his wife go to retrieve their car from the parking garage. Their ticket won’t work in any of the machines, so they press the button for assistance. No one answers. DUN DUN DUUUNNN! Whatever will happen?? Well… it turns out the attendant was just making his rounds. He came back, fixed the issue, and they left. The story that inspired the title? No one actually missed the boat. By the time I got towards the end of the book Finlay started mentioning his first book repeatedly, and then that’s slowly all the rest of the book ended up being about.

Overall Impression: There were one or two laughs in this book, but the fact that the story jumped around and didn’t have a cohesive plot combined with all the unnecessary exclamation points and awkward purple prose made me not like it. There wasn’t any kind of character development to speak of, and the whole book was less of a memoir and more of a monologue. I found it almost to the point of boring, and I would have DNF’d it half way through if it had gotten any worse.



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