“I know that life dreams are not necessarily the same as adventures…” (254). Kathleen Schmitt describes both her life’s biggest adventure and her life’s dream with candor, humor and wisdom.
After graduating from Georgetown, the author plans to ride from Virginia to California on horseback, with a protection dog by their side. She calls the trip an A.A., an Apparent Adventure, “contrived or pointless, or at least not to the point” (8). Rather than affecting some specific change or outcome, her journey reveals its purpose as it unfolds.
The narrative maintains a steady trot, despite the trip’s setbacks and detours, in its varied styles. There are mini-stories, “rants,” history lessons, insights into her relationships and feelings, all told in colloquial speech. She paints some scenes, however, in lyrical prose. For example, in Appalachia: “Dirty streaks flowed downhill from each cavity [mining shaft hole] like sooty pus running from open abscesses” (87). The pocked mountain is as dark and graphic as Mordor from the Lord of the Rings! Through keen observations at a close distance, she sets herself in a broader context.
Her travel companions are as important to the plot as her own development. The animals provide comic relief. Country Boy, her Boxer dog, acts more hurt than he is, Jack, a horse, needs practice being tethered, and Murphy, another horse, makes an escape. Besides being comedic, these animals become family. From dashing cowboys to blind farmers, strangers the author meets along the way also add colorful layers to the travelogue.
On a more serious note, a pivotal chapter comes towards the end, when the trip takes an unexpected turn. Reflective life lessons are offered. Far from glib, these conclusions come from how she approaches her adventures, not what her adventures are.
Funny, educational, and insightful, The Best That Can Happen dares anyone with a momentous goal to go ahead and try it.
This book let me live vicariously Kathleen’s dream of adventurously traveling through the U.S. by horseback.
Even the first chapters invoked a potent emotional response from me. Her writing style, and use of language, really immersed me into Kathleen’s world. I felt as if I was there with her, pondering the idea to begin this journey of a lifetime, having its roots in her youth. I had a front-row seat to discovering her motivations, and hearing the birth of this idea.
I enjoy her writing style. She knows how to paint a picture in your mind, hooking you into her world, making you want to know more. It’s an art to write a travel memoir without information dumping on readers. The author creates a perfect balance between character building and chronicling a sequence of events, yet crafting it into a story infused with emotion and depth. A, a lovely read.
Kathleen Schmitt worked on a farm, which was a far cry from the city life she was used to. It started as a sort of joke that turned into the best thing that could happen. This story has very little to do with the joke that started the journey. It is about the actual journey and the people encountered on the way.
On a deeper level, this story is about life. Kathleen Schmitt is telling a story about a cross-country horse ride, but a lot of the situations can be metaphors for life. Her masterful narration of the story pulls the reader right into the scene with her and the horses. It is almost like you are watching every moment of the journey, which includes everything from preparation to the experiences. She includes multiple dimensions to the story, giving the reader a headier literary ride.
This story is energetic, engaging and evocative. The author has done a good job of bringing depth to the story and layering it to make it more intriguing. The author introduces every character with utmost finesse.
This is a lot of story that fits within 266 pages. I enjoyed the story, but sometimes the story pace slowed as a lot of information was shared all at once. This may not be a problem for some as the story keeps the reader very busy.
The author has done a good job of relaying the quintessence of the trip. The narration itself has it’s own character and charm. The narration moves a person to ask, ‘why not?’ but still remain realistic enough to put loads of preparation into whatever it is. The different people in this, from friends to family and even strangers along the way, really do show you how vast the world can be. It also shows you that if anyone remains open minded they can learn a whole lot from whomever regardless of their status in life.
This is a book about life, people, horses and farms. Fantastic pictures that evoke strong emotion accompany an incredible wealth of information. This is the kind of book you reread every year just to relive the experience.
Once, Kathleen jokingly suggested that she could ride a horse from Illinois to Arizona. Fast forward a few years later, and she is preparing a cross-country trail on horseback along with her beloved dog Country Boy.
Schmitt is a very engaging writer. She describes the landscape and people she meets on her journey really well – it is easy to picture them. Her own personality comes through very strongly and that was one of the main features I enjoyed about the book. Not only are you going on this journey across the United States and learning about the country, but it feels like you’re going along with a friend. Schmitt writes as though she has known her readers for years, and that stops the book becoming dry or boring. She is also incredibly candid and open about her experience which helps the narrative. As a reader you become engaged very quickly.
Yet the biggest draw for me was her relationship with her animals, in particular her horses and dog. It is clear how much she loves them, and the passages where she discusses them made me smile, to the point I became more interested in their relationship than any human one in the book. Her passion for horse training also positively shines through – another reason why Schmitt is such an engaging writer. It is hard to be bored listening to someone discuss a topic they adore. My highlight in the book is when she first gets Country Boy, and how their relationship developed. It was a sweet, funny chapter and the perfect example of Schmitt’s love and passion shining through.
Overall, The Best That Can Happen: The Grand Trek was an enjoyable read, both funny and interesting in turns. Schmitt herself is a very likable, engaging narrator which helps to draw the reader in and make them continue reading. If you’ve ever fancied taking a trip around the US, this might be the book for you.