45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on 9 August 2002
Neil Peart is best-known as the drummer and lyricist from the Canadian rock band Rush. But in 1997 he suffered the double tragedy of losing both his teenage daughter and wife (one in a fatal road accident, the other of cancer).
Devastated, alone, and haunted by ghosts, Peart decided to pack up and take to the road on his motorbike--a solitary "ghost rider"--in an effort to find "the healing road". Travelling alone across North America, Peart carries the reader with him as he slowly begins the process of self-healing, gradually taking more and more of an interest in his surroundings, the people he meets and the places he visits.
Literate, lucid, honest and opinionated, Peart is much more than just an observer or guide: he lets the reader into his feelings about his own painful process of recovery, as well as his reactions to the people he meets on his aimless trek. In physical terms, his journey is a "road to nowhere", but emotionally it really is the healing road.
Thankfully because Peart is by nature a logical, rational sceptic, there is little that comes across as sentimental here -- instead Peart's honest empiricism and dogged will to keep on going, somehow, sustain both him and the reader.
The only caveat with this book is the second half feels rushed and incomplete: understandably so, perhaps, as it was written while the band were recording their "Vapor Trails" album. Still, the first half or so is worth the price alone. This is Peart's best work -- far, far more compelling than his later and rather dull travel books, "Travelling Music" and "Roadshow", both of which focus on a frankly rather bored and somewhat self-important rockstar who apparently hits the road for no better reasons than (a) to relieve his boredom and (b) to make notes on mileage and what he had for dinner to fill out his next travel book.
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
on 26 October 2002
Compelling, heart-breaking, fascinating. A gritty account of how a normal guy deals with an unimaginable double tradegy. Neil is an eloquent lyricist and his skill transfers seemlessly to book form. It's amazing to read how this man who we all know (some of us, anyway) as a rock star is so totally brought down to earth by his grief (as we all would be). He presents himself believably as a simple man who takes to the road to drive away from his grief. No matter how far he travels, he can never escape his pain and agonising memories yet on the way he learns to change and adapt. Never one to shirk his emotions, Neil tells us of his many ups and downs and how the simplest of things can elate him and and at the same time send him spiralling into a bleak depression. A great musician , a caring man, this book is "a secret touch on the heart"
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on 20 August 2002
As a Rush fan since 1978 I was already well aware of Neil Peart's talent with the English language (as well as being the best drummer in the world). I had also been shocked and saddened to hear of his devastating losses in 1997/98. I was therefore pleased when this book appeared on Amazon, his previous work "Masked Rider" being pretty much unavailable in this country.
"Ghost Rider" is an almost unbearably moving account of Neil's motorcycle odyssey following the loss of his wife and daughter, trying to find some meaning in life through perpetual motion. As the book progresses the reader steadily forgets that he is a famous figure and he becomes someone you feel you know intimately, like an old friend.
Despite the grim subject matter the book is full of wonderful moments and subtle observances; his interest in literature and nature make this a great travel book in it's own right. The brilliance of Neil's writing though leaves you with a haunting feeling that only the very best books do.
If you are not a Rush fan or haven't heard of Neil Peart, don't be put off. This is a magnificent if upsetting read which deserves to find a wider audience than just us Rush fans!!
43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on 25 October 2003
Neil Peart is a walking anomaly in that he is a very private person that exists in the high profile music industry . Reading the lyrics to the old Rush song " Limelight " makes you aware that here is a person who wants to put up a barrier against the intrusions of fame - a stranger is a long awaited friend indeed . So even more remarkable then that Neil bares his soul to the outside world through the pages of this book as he recounts the pain and anguish of his twin loss of only daughter and wife within months of each other and his epic motorcycle journey around North America to find some glimmer of inspiration to carry on living . There is a happy ending - indeed if there can be in these tragic circumstances - that he does find inspiration on his travels and eventually meets a new soul mate and gets married .
I bought the book for an insight to Neil Peart the man , and found that he is just an ordinary person who finds recognition and intrusion a very uncomfortable experience . He is obviously a naturally shy person and you can tell that he prefers reading and observing rather than participating . So from that point of view I found the book a marvellous testimony to the man and the incredible misfortune he had to endure . At times it was a difficult read when his early dark moods made it heavy going . But then he tells it like it really was - and life wasn't pretty at that stage .
I found the travelog style a bit unrewarding as it was written in a diary and letter writing prose ( to Brutus , one of his mates put to prison for " herbal " importing ) and to be honest was not all that exciting . It was on almost a " day by day " recounting of the journey and as he was travelling up to 500 miles in one day sometimes he was obviously not pausing to soak up the views and recount vivid detail to the reader . Most of it is recollections of encounters with small town Alaska , Canada and USA . Mexico was a better read but maybe it was just that his mood and spirits had lifted by then .
In conclusion , a rare insight into a private person who is very articulate , sometimes amusing , principled but also shy , introverted, and wary of unwanted company . However , to his friends and band mates he comes across to me as faithful , open , and generous ( his loyalty to his jailed friend , Brutus , seems typical of his nature ) . As a travel book, however , is was slightly disappointing as it was a little too detailed sometimes about not an awful lot quite frankly . But then again I suppose that was not really the intention of the book . Lets hope he has had enough tragedy for a life time .
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 16 June 2012
I came across this book by accident, up until that point I never knew that Neil Peart had written any books. All three members of the band Rush appear to be rather private people offstage (a genuine rarity in these times). It was a surprise to find that he had documented and published his lengthy road journey to recover after the death of his daughter and then his first wife/partner.
I admire Mr. Peart's extraordinary talent and dedication as a professional musician and lyricist. I would have loved for this book to be a sign of his skill as a writer. Unfortunately, that was not what I found. For many fans Neil Peart is an iconic figure, and to criticise his works is contentious, but I think it is possible to admire the good and acknowledge that he may not be multi-talented or even likeable.
If you approach this book with the idea that it is a travelogue, of sorts, it is a disappointment. You are presented with a lot of tedious detail about restaurants, standard motels, expensive hotels, bike dealerships and gas stations, but the landscape descriptions are hasty sketch writing at best and horribly overblown at worst. Neither of which transports you to the location. Which is more than a shame considering the sheer variety of places he visited.
If you enjoy birdwatching or some details of cross-country motorbiking then you may find elements appealing. Even for an insular person he took great pains not to engage with strangers, cutting himself off from the other main source of travelogue writing which is talking to people. It also creates the unintentionally hilarious quote; "Stories, stories" which turns into his particular shorthand for saying that he neither has the time, interest, nor the natural personality, to find out about what any other people's stories actually are.
Interspersed with this are rants which are overwhelmingly petty and misanthropic. His dislikes are extensive and wide-ranging, from obese people, especially Americans, to religion and much in-between. All this railing appears to be, naturally enough, his grief and hurt finding an outlet. An honest response that deserved understanding as grief is an unlovely emotion. That was what I thought initially, but as the stream of vituperative and self-indulgent moans rolled on without end my sympathy for his situation eroded to nothing. There is no moment of great self-insight, burst of awareness or acquired wisdom to be gained through it all (judging by comments on his other writings he lacks the ability to see outside of his own circumstances. Not all down to grief it seems). At times the book reads like a forced intrusion on a personal counselling session, especially with Mr. Peart's rather unusual choice of labelling his emotional states with such pet names as "my little baby soul" or "my little chickadee soul" amongst other facile techniques.
What is lacking is empathy both as a writer and a person. Searing honesty? Perhaps so if that applies to the rants but neither his daughter or his first wife/partner receive much mention in the book overall, which makes it quite difficult to understand how deeply he cared for them and what their loss meant aside from the inevitable meltdown.
The letters section tells the reader nothing about the relationships that supported him through that point in his life. Calling it filler material is accurate. At the end of this particular journey the only things that I took from all the turgid writing are that; grief can be gotten over soon enough if you are a wealthy person, with friends and paid helpers who will do pretty much everything to accommodate your needs and that meeting the right woman will fix being broken. That it worked for Mr. Peart to get his life back is all fine and good, but it's not exactly inspirational stuff to me. It's hard not to come away with the thought that the book is, and was, meant as an entirely private journal. It might have been a wiser choice to let it stay that way.
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on 27 July 2002
A great read! I bought this book when I was in Canada and could hardly put it down. The writer lost his wife and daughter (even his dog!) in the space of a few months and the books tells the tale of his attempts to try to get his life back. Very emotional (obviously), but also humorous, ironic and written with a dry wit throughout. Neil rides his BMW bike from Canada through the USA and into Mexico and Belize and we get full descriptions along the way. I call this 'open heart surgury' because he bares the pain in his heart to all of the readers, and even without necessarily experiencing such disaster in our own lives we can easily identify with his suffering. At no point do we ever feel like shouting 'pull yourself together man', and this - I feel - is due to his skill as a writer in bringing us all on side.
Only his second published book, but sure not to ne his last.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 August 2010
Although it was very strongly recommended by others whose views I respect, I hesitated a long time before reading this book. I enjoy the music of Rush, and was concerned that this book might change my view of Peart as a person, and that could influence my view of his (their) music.
Given the circumstances under which Peart started his journey it should be no surprise that this is a very personal book, and you do learn a lot about Peart from reading it. Nonetheless I finished the book feeling I would be happy to join Peart on a long journey, or to spend more time in his company. I did feel any reader could get to know Peart a lot better through this book, and if you do not find his personality type attractive you could easily dislike both him and the book, but I also feel both author and book are worth getting to know.
I have recommended this book to various friends, not only those who enjoy motorcycle travel, but also those who are coming to terms with loss or other stresses as I believe it gives an insight into another's grief and thus gives reassurance that "you are not alone". I felt it was inspirational that Peart was looking forward to a future by the end of the book, having started to recover from his loss.
As other's have said, this is a book of two halves; apparently Rush were working on an album while Peart was writing the second half, and it does feel a little rushed (no pun intended), but even the second half is better than many other travel books I have read, while the first half is excellent.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 19 August 2010
This book had been in my "to read" list for quite a while, on the basis that the notoriety of the author and the subject matter would make it a very interesting read, but no.
For bike enthusiasts it will be a let down as there is not much detail into that. For traver writers, it will be a bit of a let down as the sense of adventure, drama and sometimes silly fun that one has when travelling abroad is not here.
At times all we get is a list of the hotels and restaurants Mr Peart visits in his journey almost in bullet point list. The ease of read of the book at times is strangled by the telling of a previous trip along some of the same roads the author carried out with a friend a couple of years back, so we don't know if he is talking about the current trip on the healing road or travels past. Also, a whole section of the book is written in letter form to his friend Brutus, but the font type does not change, so many times it is unclear wether we are back to the main narrative or still in a letter, an issue further complicated by the fact that some sections are written in italics in journal entry form.
The book is a very honest and heartfelt account of a very painful time for Neil Peart, but it would have benefitted greatly by a much needed, and absent, editorial job.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 23 May 2003
this is a marvellous book.
how peart found the strength to write about the wicked events that befell his family is beyond me.
but then, as he makes clear in the book, the writing was part of the healing process. something he went through to come to terms with what happened.
an essential read about the strength of the human spirit.
on 4 March 2015
I should first point out that you will only get the full effect of this book if you are a Rush fan - at least enough of a fan to understand the lyrical references and know Neil Peart's reputation as a person as well as a drummer.
This book was a heavy read at many points, especially as Peart recalls the trauma of his daughter's death and his wife's subsequent passing a matter of month's later. Then comes his best friend's incarceration, exacerbating his sense of loss but with which he copes by writing to him frequently; large sections of the book consist of those letters to him, complete with in-jokey language and turns of phrase.
Peart sets the scene very well, whether it's capturing the ambiance of a restaurant in small-town America or riding through the middle of nowhere, although his very focused and detailed interests in plant and bird life can lose you at times, if you're not as familiar as he is. His love of literature, although once again baffling for someone not so familiar, is inspiring in how it supplements his life and his travels, even at his lowest points. At times, his estimations of humanity waver and he occasionally slips into a mild misanthropy, although this is tempered by self-awareness and not entirely unrelatable for someone of his disposition, if anything giving me a deeper admiration for a man whom I had until then only known of his good-natured side.
Peart mixes the adventurous with the mundane and you are exposed to both his mental state and experience of the grieving process whilst on his bike and whilst cooped up (as he might call it) in his house, but whilst some may get impatient during the latter parts, this is an exceptionally important part of the book and actually where many of the more amusing moments take place.
The book is very much written how Neil wanted to; some will find it a tricky read due to so much of it consisting of letters to friends, and also the changing pace of the book, but you can't begrudge a bereaved man the right to describe coping with loss on his own terms. Never at any point did I think "come on, come on!" or "get over it". In fact, when I'd finished the book, I felt somewhat bereft. On the other hand, I felt ironically more acquainted than ever with such a private person. In keeping with that though, I offer Mr. Peart a warm salute from a respectable distance, should he ever see it!