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This book club provided an opportunity to discuss books with authors from 2009 - 2013. I like to think we were a group of daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, well... women finding time to meet while juggling daily life.

I hope you enjoy exploring The Manic Mommies Book Club Archives. We read 46 books over the years, with audio or written author discussions for each book read documented on this blog.

~ with kindness & gratitude, Mari

Driving Sideways - discussion starts today!

Originally posted in the Big Tent.... view comments for full conversation.

Today we start our discussing ‘Driving Sideways’ - I encourage everyone to visit the MMBC Blog to read the Q&A with Jess Riley. Her answers may spark a discussion topic for you, or maybe another question to ask everyone.

This dialog is meant to be a discussion between friends – Let’s keep the discussion causal and hopefully we learning something new about each other along the way.

Below you will find 7 questions to help with the dialog and I have a few questions from the author to add as the day progresses (if we need them). You don’t have to answer all of them; they are here to spark conversation:

1. Have you taken a road trip? When/where? Feel free to share some funny/interesting stories with us.

2. I just loved that Leigh had huge ideals for the four stops along the way and that they all turned out less than expected. As a reader, I wondered at the beginning if she would carry on with Seth and Jess wrote him brilliantly! It’s so interesting running into people from ones past that you put on a pedestal only to learn that they as struggling to live life from day to day too. Have you had any experiences like this? Ie: class reunions..

3. What would you have done at the rest stop when Leigh first encounters Denise? Did you like Denise as a character? How was she different from the beginning of the book to the end?

4. How does Leigh change from the beginning of the book to the end? Was the road trip a rewarding experience? If you were Leigh, would you be happy with the trip?

5. Jillian joins the road trip impulsively (taking time off from her job as a massage therapist doesn’t seem to be an issue). Can you imagine being so impulsive (think of our crazy busy lives today), where/what would you like to do?!

6. Leigh keeps meeting men during her journey making you wonder – could this be the guy. Then you wonder if she dies at the end. Did anyone feel this way?

7. Leigh’s brother has been her caregiver for years, overseeing her medical treatment and her wellbeing. If you had to take on additional responsibilities in your life or had a sibling help raise you – we would love for you to share your story.


  1. Driving Sideway's was a pleasant surprise for me. I was a little surprised this novel won at the time, yet I really enjoyed this book and am thankful it was selected.

    I really liked the characters, all flawed and written with such whit.

    Denise: After getting over the scene at the MN/WI rest stop (why did Leigh let her accompany her, I'm still trying to understand this)… I really liked her in the beginning but didn't like her much by the end of the book. Denise was so strong at the beginning of the story. I also didn't like the acting story and how she claimed to be studying for a role. Did anyone else feel the same way?

    Seth: Having had a reunion in recent years, this stop was comical. I haven't talked to my HSB since we each left for college 20 years ago, he was going into psychology. Over the years I had imagined/hoped he was happy, successful, had children (imagining the perfect life for him) -- after our reunion I found out he sells insurance and is divorced with two kids. For some reason I was let down a little. I had such goals for him in my mind! I'm sure he's a great guy and hopefully happy -- just not what I expected. I share this story because this is exactly what Leigh must have thought. I loved this rest stop visit.

    I finished the book and found it pretty entertaining. I think Denise was interesting until California. It seemed a bit jarring the way her storyline ended, it didn't seem true to Denise.

    Unless you married your HSB, I think you are usually disappointed after that much time. But who knows, I could be wrong.
    I think that the trip itself seemed very cool and hopefully I will be able to check out that part of the country one day.
    I was quite entertained by the writing style and humor in the book. I really enjoyed Leigh's development as a character and her view on life and death.

  2. I agree that Denise was a character that was really great to start with and then lost her 'umph', although maybe that was the point.

    I could really identify with the road trip, I have been on several and I have been to most of the places described in the book. It seems that road trips always hold this idealized promise and expectation that are never quite fulfilled. My college girlfriends and I took one through Montana for our senior year and while it was a good time, our canoe trip after college was much better! I could also identify with Leigh's desire to change herself through something else, this hope she had in Larry. I love that she realized she had placed her hope and expectations in the wrong place.

    I also have a HSB story... he actually showed up at my sister's wedding this summer! Apparently someone had mentioned it to him and so he stopped by with his oldest daughter. He is doing yard work mostly for a university I think.. and yes I would agree that I had higher hopes for the guy. It was weird to see him as I'm all dolled up weird in an ugly bridesmaids dress but he seemed happy and relaxed and it was fun to know what he was up to.

    Back to Driving Sideways... overall I think it was a good book that holds a lot of entertainment and thinking value for our current time and our current issues with medical care and treatment. It has many connection points on many levels. It could have gone deeper, but I was glad it didn't as I enjoy a lighter read once in awhile and it kept me totally hooked. This was my first ebook reading experience. I agree with the author that a good old paper book is best but it was great to have this when I was waiting somewhere or when hubby had gone to sleep I could whip out my phone and read a little without disturbing him!

  3. This book wasn't my first pick and I wasn't sure what to expect. It was a funny, light read that I really enjoyed. As Leigh lost each item that was connecting her to her past she was forced to think about who she really was and who she wanted to become. I think we all go through this and it was fun to watch how she handled it.

    I was let down a bit by the ending with Denise too. It didn't really seem to fit with her personality, especially since it didn't sound like she was that good an actress.

    I really liked getting the scoop on what might be going through the minds of a transplant recipient. My brother-in-law underwent a kidney transplant when he lost both of his kidneys about 10 years ago. When he rejected the transplant about 4 years ago I offered one of my kidneys. Though we are not the same blood type there was a way there were going to be able to do it. He actually got a kidney from a friend so i didn't have to do it.

  4. I was always interested why none of his family, who were a match were willing to give one of their kidneys. I didn't want them to think I was judging them (I wouldn't) I just was interested in how they reached their decision.

    Her friends seem much more willing to literally give of themselves than her family. I wondered if her mom, had she found her, would have been interested in seeing if she could donate a kidney.

    I loved the encounter with Seth. My story is not a High School Boyfriend but a College Boyfriend. The guy who was THE ONE!! or at least I thought so. We dated for 2 years. He broke my heart when he broke up with me to go out with another girl. After he graduated, he got back in touch and invited me for the weekend. About 1 month later I found out that he and the "other woman" were engaged!!! He had used the weekend as a trial run. I was devastated at the time. I had lost!! They got married; they even named their first child, a girl, Katherine. This is my mom's name and the name we had discussed for our daughter.

    Fast forward 20 years later... I am happily married with 2 fabulous boys. I did what everyone did when given access to Google I googled all my old boyfriends!! the college boyfriend showed up with the information he had been granted a Divorce and granted custody of his 4 children. I reached out to say hi and he responded back. We had some very nice conversations. I ended up in his neck of the woods for a conference, and he invited me for dinner. We had a wonderful dinner. He had been a huge part of my college experience and that had been gone for 20 years. How great to laugh about that stuff again.

    Turns out his marriage had been a nightmare. She was manic/depressive who medicated herself with alcohol and drugs. After her second attempt to kill herself, her father convinced his son-in-law to divorce his daughter otherwise she would take him down both emotionally and financially. We moved on to more pleasant conversations.

    At the end of a very pleasant evening he walked me back to my hotel. After we said goodnight he said... "One more thing... I just wanted you to know that about 19 years ago I realized i made a huge mistake. I picked the wrong girl. I am happy that you have a good life and a good marriage and great kids, and this is not a come-on, I want to tell you I am sorry if I hurt you." OMG isn't that what every girl wants to hear!!!! It was wonderful and it really didn't feel like a come-on. We have built a nice friendship, and it will never go back to what it was, but it was nice to find out!!!

  5. I thought Denise's development thru the book was consistent with adolescence, she was impulsive, narcissistic and wanted to test her limits, but in the end, "apologized" by contributing $ to the walk and trying to resume contact. She was presented in the end as a rich teenager with largely self involved absence parents, who never had any limits, and with that background I think she acted as one would expect. Even though she was an actress, I took her comment about the road trip being preparation for an audition as a more defensive comment than anything else...

  6. I enjoyed the book and even found myself cracking up at times. I loved the "swinging" couple part when they broke down. I thought she had some pretty good one liner’s in the book too.

    One thing that got me thinking from reading the book is what I would do if I were in her friend’s situation, meaning Jillian, Wes, Amanda. . . .would I offer to donate a kidney? How much of their age, being single and such came into play in the offer vs. having a family of their own? Would James have offered if it had happened after he had his own child? It just has me thinking now about what I would do in that situation. I have a 3 year old and would give her any organ necessary (you get my point), but would I offer a kidney to a dear friend and risk not being able to have it later if my own child needed it? I don't know. . . .

  7. 1. Have you taken a road trip? When/where? Feel free to share some funny/interesting stories with us. When Leigh started her road trip, I remembered back to one I took when I drove a pick up truck for my former company from LA to Dallas. I know it seems weird to drive a truck across country for a Commerical Airline - but it had to get to Dallas. I took one of my good friends with me and we did a lot of route 66 and some of those sites, stopped in Lubbock where we went to college, listened to some books on tape (gasp - tape!!!) - we had a blast. We were somwhere in New Mexico and I could see a thunderstorm ahead of us. I realized we had a problem because a) our windshield wipers didn't work and b) all our luggage was in the back. we still laugh about it.

    2. There are so many times when things don't live up to my expectations - mostly because I've built them up so much in my head about how great it's going to be and how much fun I'm going to have. Now, I try very hard to stay calm and don't let my imagination go wild before the event actually happens. The last time I was proven wrong was the first Manic Mommies Escape. I had zero expectations and just thought if anything, it would be a trip and I would be able to say I had done it. It turned out to be a very meaningful experience and to this day I am so glad I packed the bag and took off!

    3. I can't stand a thief.

    4. I think Leigh becomes happy with herself, her family, and her friends and realizes that she has a great life with lots of people that love her.

    5. I think that is the ultimate freedom - just to be able to go. My husband and I did that the summer I was on maternity leave. He happened to be out of work at the time and I still had access to my flight benefits. We realized we would never have the chance to "just go" and we left the baby with my mom and took off to Paris to watch Lance Armstrong win Tour de France #6. It was my husband's first time in Europe and we had a blast together. A trip I will always remember. Jillian joining the trip was also an escape for her from what I read as a bad situation, so it was her new beginning as well. And what better way to have a new beginning than with your best friend.

    6. Leigh keeps meeting men during her journey making you wonder -- could this be the guy. Then you wonder if she dies at the end. Did anyone feel this way? Heck yes!!! What happens??? new organ? marriage? kids? did school work out??? I detest not knowing the "rest of the story" when a book ends!!! I have to believe she doesn't die though.

    7. I am incredibly blessed with healthy family members and parents that were and are a part of my life. I have to believe that if I were in the situation of needing to help someone that I could do it as selflessly (is that a word?) as James did. Here's hoping I don't have to test that situation for a very long time.

  8. I really wanted to love this book. I enjoyed the humor but not always the way it was delivered. It seemed really chatty to me. It was like listening to someone tell a story with way too many details that didn't add to the point of the story.

    What was up with the Amish couple? If they were supposed to be a symbol of something I didn't get it.

    Once I pick up a book I usually don't want to put it down so I was really surprised that I had to force myself to pick this book up a couple of time. I am glad that I finished the book because I did enjoy the characters and I thought the ending was very good.

    1) I would probably say cellular memory isn't real but I do find it interesting and wouldn't rule it out entirely.

    2) I think Leigh started the journey with very little faith in herself, her friends,and her family and ended the trip with more faith in herself, in her friends, and in her family.

    3) I've been pretty blessed and haven't really felt the need for a drastic change in my life.

    4) I think once you have been poked and prodded, nothing is off limits and you have to find humor in it. I know from having kids that things that seemed too gross to joke about now seem very appropriate.

    5) The closest I have come is talking my friend through a divorce. She knew what she needed to do I mostly just listened and when she doubted herself I tried to build her up.

    6) This is what I liked most about the story. I think it is very realistic that things aren't always what they seem and I don't think she is done needing to find her mother.

    7) I think it helps her cope daily but it hinders her in that it is usually humor about dieing and her thoughts about an early death were preventing her from living.
    8) I think her new independence helped raise her relationship to a more adult level and helped him to stop seeing her as a child.

  9. I really enjoyed this book and thought it was really funny, especially in the early to middle sections. I loved the author's conversational writing style and thought that added to the humor in the book.

    I think the book was built around Leigh's struggle and journey to finally develop faith in herself, especially faith in the knowledge that she really could live a long and fulfilling life. She spent so much of her early adulthood living in fear and being faced with the idea that she might not live to do the things she had always dreamed of doing. How frightening would that be?

    I have no experience or knowledge of organ transplants or cellular memory. Regardless, I think feeling she was "channeling Larry" was what motivated Leigh to get her life started again. Along the way as she discovered who Larry really was, she was able to get over it because she had already begun to discover who she really was.

    Her humor is definitely crass at times, which I suppose is what I found so funny about her! But I have a sister who has a chronic disease and have seen her deal with the reality of it through this same kind of communication. Sometimes it's just what gets you through. And it also lets you talk frankly about some of the things you're going through without feeling too emotional about it or without feeling embarrassed.
    I liked Denise as a character in the beginning of the novel, loved seeing her as Leigh's "guardian angel" but was disappointed in the way her character unraveled. I didn't like the spoiled rich kid/actress thing. Although I did smile in the end with the large donation for the PKD walk - I love when things are so neatly tied up in the end of a book (I can't help it!) I liked that Denise became someone that Leigh cared for and looked after - whether she had wanted to or not - when she lived much of her life being looked after by her brother and her friends. I think she needed that.

    I'm a fan of road trips and have taken several over the years. And random, sometimes crappy things always happen along the way. But that's all part of it, otherwise what kinds of stories would we have to tell when we got home? It's OK to have great expectations that aren't always met - it's how we learn about ourselves, and ultimately how Leigh learned about herself.

    I thought it was a great read and can't wait for the next book!

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  11. Wow, what a wonderful thoughtful discussion. I was MIA last week due to some "bumps in the road" that are taking much of my attention. Many of my impressions about the book are mentioned in the above conversations, but I love seeing some of the different points of view.

    I wanted to mention that I got an email from Jess requesting that we reschedule our Words To Mouth interview, due to her emergency appendectomy & follow-up. Poor thing. I just thought I'd request prayer and positive vibes on her behalf, since she provided us all with such entertainment and food for thought.

    I especially had to giggle about everyone's comments on past boyfriend's ~ I had one who just a couple years ago tracked me down and basically made it known to me he'd be willing to come "meet up with me" when he was in town...BLUCK! The other, my first (college) "Love of my Life" ended up finally married in his forties and by the time I connected with him, he had just returned from a solo sailing trip to and fro the Figi Islands...that felt like a BLUCK, too...for different reasons. Ultimately, I was glad he was successful, but admittedly there was a piece of me that didn't necessarily need him to be that romantic and free spirited while I was packing lunches and helping kiddos with homework.

    In regards to expectations ~ I''m trying to learn to live with EXPECTANCY, not expectations...because most times, when I have specific expectations for my efforts, it's not necessarily how things work out and then comes in frustration and disappointment. I'm trying to be open to where life leads, not get too far ahead of myself, and look back and say, "Ah, so it wasn't so linear, but there was a positive point to all this, after all."
    Enough random ramblings from me.
    I'll keep you all posted on when Jess can be on Words To Mouth...please send her up a little love!

  12. So sorry to hear about Jess' recent medical issues. Get better soon!

    I really enjoyed this book. I thought her humor and internal dialogue made the story hilarious and I could connect to some of her thoughts about people, and events that she didn't share out loud.

    I thought that Jess' voice in this novel was so fun and I like the references to things that are here and now. It doesn't take away from a book, in my opinion, when there are references I am not aware of. It challenges me to find out more.

    I love a good road trip and this one reminded me of college days long gone. I love reading everyone's comments about the book and look forward to reading more.

    I would like to share more of my thoughts but being the Manic Mommy that I am I had exactly five minutes to do this while my husband holds the 4 month old and before I wake the 3 year old up to get ready for her 'bounce house' birthday party.

    I did wonder about the Amish family as well. I was thinking I was missing something with that series of events.

    Thanks Mari for organizing this book club. I already have the next book and am looking forward to getting started with it.

  13. I'm so glad everyone enjoyed the book. This forum for our discussion is great, allowing everyone to participate on their own timeline. For those who haven't commented yet, its not too late! This is the luxury of an online discussion, no deadlines/meetings to rush to.

    After reading a few comments about 'Denise' today I started think that our reaction to Denise is similar to Leigh's with Seth (we expected so much more and as with the other characters, we were let down a bit).

    Does anyone else see this parallel? This would make sense, maybe Carrie can get more information regarding Denise .

  14. Sorry for being sooo late in the discussion - had a few bumps of my own this past week. I LOVED the book as well, I really identified with her humor and I loved how the story unfolded - I couldn't wait to get free moments to read it.
    There's been a lot of really great discussion - here's a few topics I'd like to share my comments on:

    Denise - I really held onto the part about "having a guardian angel named Denise". I think her character motivated Leigh to experience things she wouldn't have done so on her own - picking up a stranger, going out with the cop, skinny dipping. Denise, in a way, enlightened Leigh to live a little riskier, which can add great "color" to life. At the end when the truth is revealed, I think the author had done such a good build up of the mystery that we felt the same disappointment the characters must have felt. Yet in the end, Denise makes a big altruistic gesture and reminds us how fun she made the adventure and we are grateful for the experience.

    I think the Seth storyline is typical for a lot of women, or maybe both women and men. In a twist similar the same situation, my "high school sweetheart" is flying into town in a few weeks and wants to connect. For him, I am "the one who got away" - BLUCK - and because he feels this way I REALLY don't want to see him. I'm happy in my marriage, I love my family - and I'm a different person than I was in high school - I won't be the person he may be expecting. Seth certainly was a dream exploded.

    Also, on cellular memory, I've heard of people getting bone marrow transplants who end up with some of new characteristics possibly from of their donor - cravings for food and such. I used to practice massage therapy, and we studied muscular memory - which most of us have from injuries/accidents and/or repeated stress to certain muscles. Muscle, after all is tissue - made up of cells. What I'm trying to infer that at some level the essence of who we are, at least physically, lies in our cells - so I don't think it's too removed to say that Leigh may have picked up something from Larry. Although to me, it's more divine intervention. The new person she was becoming was based on that kidney, it was a new lease on life and a reason to be these "new" things that were probably in her along - all she needed was a push to pursue them and "channeling Larry" worked.

    Before I get too wordy and long-winded, I think it's a great coming of age story. We all evolve into different people, face problems, make bad decisions, wrong choices, etc. Life is about the journey. Leigh's story is a fantastic journey.

  15. Did anyone think that maybe Denise really was Leigh's half sister. I thought maybe Leigh's inner dialogue at the rest stop and the guardian angel angle was foreshadowing a real biological connection between these two women. I thought she might discover this in Los Angeles when she found her mom and Denise's destination. And then the kidney transplant would be possible....I was sort of glad the book didn't turn out so nice and neat, but it certainly occurred to me. I was a more disappointed in the complete absence of drama when she went to her mother's house. I was hoping for a little more, but so was Leigh, no?

    Great discussion.

  16. You know, I did have a similar thought about a connection between Leigh & Denise. I had originally thought it would be interesting for Denise to be a match. I also thought toward the end that Leigh's boyfriend would be a match adding to the kismet feeling from when they met and solidifying their relationship.

    In the end I'm glad it wasn't tied up so easily too.

  17. Did anyone think that maybe Denise really was Leigh's half sister. I thought maybe Leigh's inner dialogue at the rest stop and the guardian angel angle was foreshadowing a real biological connection between these two women. I thought she might discover this in Los Angeles when she found her mom and Denise's destination. And then the kidney transplant would be possible....I was sort of glad the book didn't turn out so nice and neat, but it certainly occurred to me. I was a more disappointed in the complete absence of drama when she went to her mother's house. I was hoping for a little more, but so was Leigh, no?

    Great discussion.