Publication Date: January 19, 2014
In Nowhere to Goa Bhang Lassis, Rickshaws, and Holy Cows! by Doug E. Jones, Scott and Mike are 19-year-old twins. Scott has always lived by the rules, while Mike’s been a reckless free spirit charging ahead and getting by on his good looks and a nice smile. When Mike is arrested in India, Scott knows that he must once again save his twin and heads off to bring him home. The task is not as straightforward as Scott anticipated as he sets off on his brother’s trail. On the South Asian backpack trail, Scott’s eyes are opened and he wonders if perhaps there isn’t more out there than a degree from the Northwestern University and a quiet life.
The author, Doug E. Jones, sent me a copy of this book in exchange for my review.
It would have been easy for Jones to ride on stereotypes in Nowhere To Goa: Bhang Lassis, Rickshaws, and Holy Cows! Scott, the good twin vs. the bad twin, Mike, the rakish and likable but irresponsible twin. Instead of leaning on what might be easy, Jones builds an authentic, wholly realized and thoroughly entertaining story of a man who may be looking for his brother but ends up finding himself. His wide and varied cast of characters is fully developed and wonderfully entertaining as they act as a foil for or help the main character in his quest to reunite and struggle to corral his brother long enough to get him back to home base.
Nowhere To Goa: Bhang Lassis, Rickshaws, and Holy Cows! is funny, insightful and poignant. Scott is accustomed to the weight of expectation and responsibility. He and his parents have been living as a unit apart from his twin, Mike. Scott almost seems to view himself as a trainer to an animal he loves dearly but knows will one day bite him. Mike’s been the only really unpredictable element in Scott’s life and while Scott loves him dearly, he’s more a responsibility than a unified part of Scott’s life. Mention of Mike is not welcomed with joy because when his name comes up, it always means something has gone horribly awry. When Scott arrives in India and starts looking for Mike, he finds that things are perhaps worse for his brother than he thought, and the need to locate his brother is more urgent than previously suspected. Mike seems to be on his own pursuit of sex and drugs and rock-and-roll. Scott tells us early on, after discovering that his brother had headed for the Himalayas, that he rarely lost his temper, but when he loses his temper it’s almost always because of his brother who he sees as an impulse-driven hedonist … and as someone who needs saving. There is no one on this planet that knows more about the answers than a 19-year-old. It is in the transformative moments as Scott experiences in Nowhere To Goa: Bhang Lassis, Rickshaws, and Holy Cows! that he comes to realize how little he truly knows.
Jones depiction of setting is vivid. He integrates information about culture, history and people, beautifully made for an engrossing travel read. As enjoyable as the characters are, the settings are what make this book worth reading. I’m not overly familiar with the India, Thailand and other locales depicted, but they are painted with such through and loving strokes that I now feel this is perhaps a trip that is necessary to a complete life. Indeed, the author’s biography indicates that the areas depicted in the book are areas he knows well. When Scott passes through Pushkar, India in his pursuit of Mike, he describes a beautifully mild Holy Town where people gather by the lake to have their heads sprinkled with Holy Water. Rituals such as the removing of shoes and gathering of people by the lake are done with reverent dignity. The reader gets the feeling that these are places the author knows well because each has a unique spirit. Of course, there is a downside as illustrated by Scott’s vicious case of intestinal parasites. Scott seems to leave few realistic perils unturned to the delight and entertainment of the reader.
Throughout the course of his adventure, Scott is reading Breakfast of Champions: A Novel by Kurt Vonnegut and keeping a journal of his thoughts. This particular Vonnegut novel runs a heavy theme in the story and is probably one of the most brilliant pieces of meta-fiction ever written. If you have not read this book, it’s one of my favorites of Vonnegut’s work and I urge you to run out and pick it up today.
Nowhere To Goa: Bhang Lassis, Rickshaws, and Holy Cows! is a very tranquil novel. Told in Scott’s voice, the flow is easy and relaxed. Per is a man he met on the plane and acts as a bit of a common-sense guide to a character thrown into a different culture. After Scott loses a ton of money in a case of mistaken identity in exchange for a cup of chai and a hand job, Per helps Scott make sense of why Mike might go where he’s headed. In a sense, He also acts as a travel mentor to the younger man.
I really liked Nowhere To Goa: Bhang Lassis, Rickshaws, and Holy Cows!. I found the novel to be personable, engaging, expertly written and wholly engrossing. I recommend this to anyone who likes travel novels, coming-of-age stories or just generally good fiction.
Doug E. Jones holds a degree in English Literature and has lived and worked in a number of countries. He worked as a writer for the television show Charmed. Nowhere To Goa: Bhang Lassis, Rickshaws, and Holy Cows! is his first novel.
Read an excerpt and buy Nowhere to Goa Bhang Lassis, Rickshaws, and Holy Cows! by Doug E. Jones on