What begins as a road trip through America soon becomes a journey of discovery into themselves and into the heart of the next-door neighbour they thought they knew. For Wayne Grady, the thrill of landscape and history is tempered by memories of racism and his own family roots. Merilyn Simonds, her ear tuned for the offbeat, finds curious echoes of the ex-pat promised land she grew up with. Together they travel against the tide of American history, following in the literary tire tracks of John Steinbeck, William Least Heat Moon, and Francis Trollope.
Grady and Simonds experience the splendors of the Mojave Desert, the Grand Canyon, the Mississippi River, and the bayou’s of Louisiana and the Outer Banks and contemplate the impact of geography on culture and of culture on landscape. They observe America from the outside, yet feel strangely at home.
Part travelogue, part exploration, part mid-winter love story told with wit and acuity by one of Canada’s most engaging literary couples, Breakfast at the Exit Cafe is a journey into the reality behind the cultural myth that is America.
Two Canadian writers set out on a near-two-month-long, haphazard car trek through America intending to dispel unlovely myths about the U.S., and return unmoved, as they recount in their meandering, occasionally sanctimonious account. Grady, a science writer, and Simonds, a novelist, are married, live in Ontario, and have grown children. On a lark, just before Christmas 2006, they take off, driving in their Toyota Echo "into the heart of the neighbor we thought we knew," from Washington State through the Grand Canyon, Arizona, embracing a Southern route through Texas, Alabama, and Georgia, then the Outer Banks, North Carolina, and finally passing through Princeton, New Jersey. They avoid cities, preferring the charming vista, the picturesque town, the mom-and-pop motel or restaurant, independent bookstore, and offbeat road; armed against America's all-pervasive influence in Canada, its aggressive culture and lack of interest in things Canadian, the couple, recording their thoughts in alternating POVs, are mostly confirmed in their views of America's "fakery," though they are pleasantly surprised from time to time by the kindness of the native folks, a well-stocked bookstore, small-town monuments, the truly monumental natural splendors of the Southwest, and the charms of Jefferson, Texas, which redeems the couple's unfavorable view of the state because of then-President George Bush. The authors have done their historical homework about the U.S., and provide an interesting guide for the ambivalent first-time traveler.