Breakfast at the Exit Café begins as a personal story-told in alternating voices by two travellers and writers-of a journey by car from British Columbia around the rim of the United States. It soon becomes a journey of exploration. For Grady, whose forebears were slaves who came to Canada in the 1880s, this is a journey through fear, racism, and violence into his own family roots. For Simonds, who grew up a lonely Canadian in the American School of Campinas, Brazil, it is a journey into the heart of the ex-pat promised land, the nation of the American Dream. As Grady and Simonds travel back through American history, they encounter the splendours of the Mojave Desert, the Grand Canyon, the Mississippi River, and the bayous of Louisiana and the Outer Banks, and they experience the impact of geography on culture and of culture on the landscape. Although they are observing America from the outside, they also strangely feel at home. The Americans they meet illuminate a country dissolving in the grip of the Bush administration's final years and inspire them to reassess their-and our-assumptions about that powerful and complex country. Also available in paperback.
Simonds writes with an eye for lyrical details, using them as jumping-off points for imaginative ruminations, while Grady's sections are peppered with facts and trivia . . . By the end of the book, the story of two travellers has become a journey of another sort: the story of a marriage. And this second journey itself is analogous to relations between the U.S. and Canada. The question in both cases is: How can two very different nations share resources, come to understand one another, and ultimately learn to get along on the road they both share? —Quill & Quire
Whether it's the sign of a symbiotic marriage or of seasoned writers crafting a seamless travel collage, the narrative in this road trip through America flows as easily as a new car on an empty highway. —Globe & Mail
Grady & Simonds take turns, each penning half of the short sections in each of the book's 14 chapters. It's an attractive choice. As they barrel along interstates and winding highways, Grady's smouldering distrust and apparent dislike of the U.S. is literally shoulder-to-shoulder with Simonds's quizzicality and eye for offbeat detail. —Ottawa Citizen
Grady and Simonds . . . hand the pen back and forth throughout their journey, each taking a few pages to comment on the passing scene before turning it over again to the other . . . This unusual structure works surprisingly well. There's no doubt we are travelling with writers . . . What a complex, fascinating read America continues to be. —Literary Review of Canada
In Breakfast at the Exit Cafe, Grady and Simonds manage to redeem Americans . . . In so doing, they also manage to define Canadian identity as something more than just anti-Americanism. Which, in the end, redeems us too. —Globe & Mail
At core, the book presents a series of slices of Americana, as considered and portrayed through Canuck eyes . . . .This is a travel book that travels well. —Winnipeg Free Press