Dining and Driving With Cats - Alice Unplugged is a heartwarming and beguiling adventure of a couple who shares a love that most of us only imagine. Pat Patterson is a born storyteller and makes readers feel as if they are part of the road trip. This book is as much a story of sweet devotion as it is an exquisite example of discovering life's hidden joys in the smallest of everyday experiences. Not since Michael Ondaatje’s hypnotic voice in The English Patient has a book spoken with such an allure for the reader. You might even spot a bit of Irish in the author and his spouse's detailed arguments comparing a dish from one restaurant to the same of another restaurant.
They, along with the cats, dine frequently during a sometimes hilarious but always romantic auto trip across the South. As the miles flip the odometer, we are given insight into how this unusual relationship between the couple came to be, evolved, and gradually, at the end revealed in a secret you didn’t see coming. What, you say? There is a twist in a dining dialogue? Yes! And you’ll just have to read it for yourself–no spoilers here. Dialogue is so natural between the two; you’ll swear he recorded the entire trip. Alice is revealed in the first pages as a real life brainy, successful business woman enjoying life in San Miguel de Allende a small cathedral town high in the Central Mexican foothills. For over thirty years she lived in Washington D.C.. When she was fresh out of grad school and managing her firm’s D.C. office she captured the heart of a young man who came in from the rain. He fell hard. He pursued her. She said no –she told him she had cats. What she didn’t tell him was that she also had a secret. Over thirty years have passed since Alice revealed her secret. The young man is no longer young but he still pursues her. She calls him hubby. This is their story of a shared love for travel and history, for food and for their sweet and wily cats Munchie and Tuffy.
You might also say the book is unusual in that it totally engages the reader from the first page without a hint of violence, bloodshed, graphic sex, drugs or language. The author's main character (besides the two cats) Alice, does say "you bastards" once. Alice is supremely self-confident and comfortable in her own skin as we learn early on when she promises the author a vehicle of his dreams if he will join her in a multi-state road trip from Mexico across the South and help wrangle two cats into restaurants, diners, cafes and hotels. He expects to find a Suburban or maybe an Escalade in the drive. Alice surprises with a Japanese sub-compact - a Honda Fit. She says it's "flexible". They drive - Scott La. & the Boudin War. They dine - New Orleans at Gautreau's, Clancy's, and Herbsaint. They laugh - the Carousel Bar. They cry - tragic death. If you come along on this moveable feast you will find yourself caught up in a romantic love story that involves the Other Woman and a secret that Alice cannot keep. You will dine on scrumptious creations from America’s most acclaimed chefs from Austin and New Orleans to the Procope and Odeon Relais at Buci Market in Paris. Along the way you will laugh at cats stuck in boxes, fight with a Pirate, terrify a US Vice-President, discover cat smuggling, and learn how the Other Woman persuaded Alice to accept the author's ring. So what’s keeping you? Hop in ‘cause these cats don’t bite. Besides, “The Get In Here and Eat” pop-up food truck is waiting just up the Austin highway.
~ My Review ~
First of all, I remember in the early to late-1990s how my parents fit their three daughters and a fat tabby in the backseat of a 1992 Mitsubishi Galant. They would take us every summer across the southern states, from California to Florida and as far north as Niagara Falls, Canada. Ours was an "educational" and "historical" tour of the United States. I now wish I could go on an eating adventure like these two! Oh to have the luxury of mouth watering feasts and driving cross country....with two cats in the backseat instead of bickering children!
My family had a lot of fun memories and adventures during my childhood and I could picture each stop that Pat and Alice took. Parts of this book reads like a tour guidebook that lists interesting facts but with more gusto. Pat weaves his tale, needing to tell you some facts about the background, architecture, the people in each stop, the smells and how the cats behaved or didn't. This book is funny and charming and, did I already say, mouth watering. The way he describes the way the food tastes - oh my, please take me with you! But the way you can tell his love for his Alice is also pretty lovely and puts this book into a sweet, tasty romance.
If you're still needing to getaway this summer, then I suggest Dining and Driving with Cats - Alice Unplugged and be prepared to laugh, sigh and salivate the whole way through!
*I received this book in exchange for an honest review. However, these thoughts and opinions are my own. I'm not required to write a positive review.***
About the Author
I was Raised in the South by a pack of wolves - good wolves with a pack leader and lifetime mate that protected the young and taught the three male pups how to survive in a chaotic world without losing the gift of kindness and love for fellow wolves. My love for writing started with a gift from my father. Entering high school he gave me a Norman Mailer war story titled "The Naked and the Dead". For the first time I realized the writer could own the true world and the fictional world in the same story. From that time on writing came easy for me. In high school I wrote a weekly humor column for our newspaper. In college at Chapel Hill my freshman short story about a talking horse who gave advice to world leaders (my version of Mr. Ed) got me an invite to the Thomas Wolfe Creative Writing program. Two years in this program taught me the value of reading other people’s works and developing a critical eye. If you can criticize someone else’s writing you have a good start on improving your own efforts. Upon graduation from University I was invited to join the US Army where I spent three years and served as a Lieutenant in the Field Artillery on the DMZ in Korea during the Vietnam War. After release from service I proceeded to Graduate School for my MBA and fell headlong into the computer trap. My years in the computer industry span the lengthy period from the day Jobs introduced the Lisa computer until Zuckerberg announced his IPO for Facebook. Along the way I was honored as co-creator of the “fuzzy search algorithms” in use as the de facto standard by all of today’s major search engines. I am best known as one of the pioneers of DRM (Digital Rights Management). My innovative Digital Rights Management product for delivering music, photos and video won my company “Best New Start-Up” at the 1998 Internet World Conference. My company was the first to release Julian Lennon’s No. 1 Hit “Day after Day” for Internet only distribution. Six of my patents are currently in relicense to a diverse group of hi-tech companies including, Microsoft, Apple, Sony, Valve, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Zynga, Audible, Intuit, Symantec and MacroVision. My "541" patent is industry famous as the iTunes Patent that was licensed by Steve Jobs to provide digital rights management for all the artists and musicians on the iTunes platform. During my career years I never stopped writing. An early cold-war espionage thriller composed on a Remington electric typewriter picked up a dozen rejects from New York publishers before an Editor at a Harcourt imprint called me for a visit. This was my introduction to book editors. Circumstances of course have changed but at that time the Editor ran the show. After two lengthy consultations it was clear that the only way I would be published was to basically re-write the entire 325 pages. You see the Editor loved my writing but hated my story. That changed me for good. I decided the only way that I could write and keep my story as my story was if I could afford to be independent. I was very good with computers. During the following years I continued to write for my own pleasure while I built an enviable career in the computer software industry. I wrote daily for business of course. In fact I have over 600 pages of published patents covering my inventions and literally thousands of pages of professionally written marketing, sales and technical documents still in circulation with my fingerprints on them. This paid for my passion - creative writing. My favorite unpublished work is titled "Stealing Blake" which I spent the better part of twenty-four years composing and rewriting. It gave me the chance to create a historical fiction about one of my favorite creatives - William Blake. Maybe I will revisit that one after I finish Alice’s story. At last we have today. It started with a love letter. I wanted to tell Alice how much her devotion to me had meant through the years. She was my rock - my confidant and she never found me wanting. We took a trip. We took cats. There were a lot of surprises. I decided our trip called for a love letter. After fifteen pages I realized I couldn’t stop without telling it all to Alice. Now two years later Alice can read the first installment in "Dining and Driving with Cats - Alice Unplugged".
Book Club Pick:
I use Goodread's rating scale
1 star – didn’t like it
2 stars – it was OK
3 stars – liked it
4 stars – really liked it
5 stars – it was so amazing, it's on my reread pile!