Cover Image: The Last Great Road Bum

The Last Great Road Bum

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Really enjoyed this based-on-a-true story of a man from Illinois who ends up fighting in the Salvadoran civil war.
Was this review helpful?
Wow! That was amazing. Tobar is a phenomenal writer and this is an important, heartbreaking story. How amazing to have been able to tell it, so much work to do so.

So very thankful to NetGalley for an ARC to savor.
Was this review helpful?
I couldn't get into this mostly because I didn't expect it to start with his childhood. But for readers that want to get beyond the "On The Road" experience, this is worth a read.
Was this review helpful?
I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this, but within pages I was totally hooked. A true story turned into a compelling novel – the novel the subject of the book couldn’t manage to write himself. Joe Sanderson had a thirst for adventure and left his middle-class comfortable and loving home in Urbana, Illinois, aged 18 to become a self-confessed road-bum. He would explore the world then turn his travels into the Great American Novel. Well, he didn’t manage that, but over 20 years he wrote 1000s of journal pages and many letters home and these later came into the possession of author Hector Tobar, who turned them into this novel, complemented with interviews with Joe’s family and many of the people he met during his peregrinations. Joe’s travels however weren't of the self-indulgent Kerouac type though. He deliberately sought out conflict zones and fully immersed himself in the places and situations he found himself in – from Vietnam to Nigeria to Jamaica to his nemesis in the revolution in El Salvador. He wanted to confront reality and perhaps make a difference. He didn’t want to be just an observer but to be a participant. As we travel with him, we get a potted history of the places he visited, in particular his last adventure in El Salvador. I found the book an absorbing and immersive journey and the mix of fiction and non-fiction expertly handled. A great read.
Was this review helpful?
Tobar has recreated the real life of Joe Sanderson, who spend his short adult life bumming around the world.  Using a trove of Sanderson’s journals, unpublished novels, and letters, Tobar has recreated the journeys and thoughts of a young guy from Urbana, Illinois who lusted for more. Joe’s thoughts flit from here to there, but always giving us a view of the new places he is exploring. He has a wide range of experiences from his early stay with Rastafarians in Jamaica to a wild road trip with Chileans in South America to experiencing the famine in Biafra. As he travels, the reader is privy to the reason he became a radical and eventually end up with guerrilla fighters in El Salvador. It was with this group that he died in combat at the age of 39. I was torn between wanting Joe to grow up and stop asking his mom for travel money and being jealous of his breezy way of traveling and meeting new people and spending more time listening than talking as he discovered new ways of looking at life.
Was this review helpful?
This book was a completely unique blend of fiction and nonfiction, as the author-journalist writes The Great-ish American Novel that Joe Sanderson had set out to do by traveling the world and participating in wars. 

"The Last Great Road Bum" is part biography written as a fictionalized memoir and part journalism. Don't write the novel off based on my messy description - it is a very unique piece of meta fiction, but as a curious reader, I really enjoyed the challenge.

It was for sure a fun read as the author delves into Joe Sanderson'a great wrold travels he set out to do in the 1960s. However, I wish he went deeper into a few parts of the story and less so into the war memoir.

*Thank you to the Publisher for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
Héctor Tobar has written a meta sort of story: a written account about and based on the personal journals and manuscripts of Joe Sanderson, a wannabe novelist and world traveler. It's perhaps the most intriguing style I've ever read, combining fiction and non-fiction, and more than one point of view.

What I loved most were Tobar's chapter end notes, written in the voice of the protagonist, commenting on what he got right and wrong in the retelling. These were delightful and provided perhaps more insight into Sanderson than his own journeys.

"What [Sanderson] wanted was a life as interesting as a novel." While Sanderson adventured far and wide, into war zones and places far off the beaten track, this book felt more like a bus tour. Countries, sites and experiences were ticked off one after the other, like a bucket list checklist. 

In fairness, that seems true to Sanderson's personality and style. It may have felt a bit superficial and repetitive after a while because of my own personal travel style: seeking deeper stories and insights into fewer places.

Thank you to Farrar, Straus and Giroux for this advance copy.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to FSG and NetGalley for the Advanced Reader's Copy!

Available Aug 25th 2020

Spanning the globe over, Hector Tobar's "The Last Great Road Bum" is a monumental adventure through time, space and even the fourth wall. Writing a novel in a novel, Tobar offer's us the perspective of an unnamed Salvadoran author writing about the explorer extraordinaire Joe Sanderson, a "native son" of Urbana, Illinois. It is clever, similar to Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, in the way Tobar pulls in and engages his audience in meta conversations. I enjoyed both the author's ponderings and Sanderson's offbeat character. Similar to Isabel Allende's novels spans over time and space, we see Sanderson circle the globe multiple times in his ever-continuing search for identity and community. Entertaining yet sobering, Tobar's "The Last Great Road Bum" has a little something to offer everyone.
Was this review helpful?
Yeah, just no for me. This book is a novel pieced together from a true story and depicts mostly the crush the author has on his subject. When the subject’s writing is quoted, it is atrocious and his wandering as pure white male privilege. An utter bro book.
Was this review helpful?
I’m judging a 2020 fiction contest. It’d be generous to call what I’m doing upon my first cursory glance—reading. I also don’t take this task lightly. As a fellow writer and lover of words and books, I took this position—in hopes of being a good literary citizen. My heart aches for all the writers who have a debut at this time. What I can share now is the thing that held my attention and got this book from the perspective pile into the read further pile. 

His energy was boundless, protomasculine and unfocused, as evidenced by the ever-growing collection of bugs and other artifacts in his bedroom, filling his room with the sugary, unnatural aroma of preserved death; and sometimes, the musky, fermented scent of the urine and wet fur of the living mammals he brought into the house from the wild. 

I also loved the conceit of the novel and this tightrope walk between fiction and nonfiction.
Was this review helpful?
https://www.ralphlauren.com/rlmag/culture-summer-reading-list-books-Rae-DelBianco.html?ab=en_US_dlp_ATHOME_Slot_7_S1_Image_SHOP
Was this review helpful?
Tobar's "The Last Great Road Bum" is definitely worth the read; based off a real person, Joseph David Sanderson, it is both fiction and non-fiction, and it provides more than the thoughts of a traveller, a road bum, the true accounts of the horrors of war.
Was this review helpful?