Different eyes see things in their own way as three young musicians just out of college, struggle with their own separate identities, goals and wander across Europe hoping to find the answers to where and who they want to be. Mikail Fantasma, is a base guitarist and singer of the three friends, in Austin Texas where this story begins. Traveling across Europe with his friends Rick and Alex he begins to see both in a different light. Excited at first, constantly meeting new people, living high, drinking beers and getting into drunken stupors you begin to wonder whether they were seeing the world in any light or just escaping the one they were in as each hostel presented different challenges and people. Living with strangers who had their own moral values and meeting different women we soon learn that Alex is fixated on Jenna who gave him an ultimatum concerning his trip and hopes that he will meet her at the chosen time in New York. The music we hear at each bar or each turn is different as we look through the many different lenses provided by our narrator through whose eyes and ears we hear and view the words, the scenery and the trip. A one-way ticket to Amsterdam starts their unique journey and ignoring the true meaning of this trip, hoping to finally decide where their lives will go when they arrive home seems to take a back seat.
Young people often like to see things in their own way whether by bike, boat, hitch-hiking which can prove dangerous in a foreign country as they traveled to Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, Berlin, Prague and even Milan. But, within each city or stop they got drunk, met some interesting women who gave them some fun and sex as well as learning within themselves that their friendships might be strained. As Mikhail feels at times and relates to readers how Alex and Rick seem to be a team and he seems ignored. The hostels were not the best, the casual encounters they make are tentative and the stories told by each one and their escapades takes up part one of this novel.
Things take on a different turn as with anyone that lives in close quarters or who spends too much time together, fights begin, petty arguments and then things take on an unusual turn. But, within this novel many of the scenes are described in Spanish and some of the conversation for those who understand the language helps to illuminate what each of these three were feeling.
The trip takes on different turns but what does not change is Mikhail and his feeling of rejection, loneliness and the realization that he, Rick and Alex might not be a team or friends when this is all over. The people they meet and the drunken stupors, the places they visit and yet one-man centers Mikhail for a while, but he falls back into the same routine everywhere they go.
Each country, each place, each hostel holds the same events, they get drunk, eat, someone must pay, and the question is where does Mikhail belong? Will he at the age of 21 realize it is time to grow up and decide a future?
Searching for something yet not understanding or know what he was looking for Mikhail and his two friends and others drink, take powerful drugs, go to bars, dance, have meaningless sex and then finally realize that they need to take their separate ways leaving Mikhail wondering why he feels so alone. Where is the nearest bar? What will make him happy? Why is he wandering around Europe with no direction? He meets a woman from Argentina who explains it all and all she wanted was to smoke weed. A generation that appears to be lost and not focused on the realities that will come later in life. The one person that centered him for a while is Aleida Anholts who was intelligent and working on her master’s degree thesis in psychology. Although they connected at one time they departed and reconnected at another and maybe they should have tried for something solid, but Mikhail was tossing his life in different directions and not until the very end of this time in Amsterdam and time to make a final journey but where would the answers to where he should go and be finally come. No commitments, no final plans, hooking up with to many of the wrong people yet not realizing it and becoming so out of it he could barely function the final ending will surprise readers when broke, no where to live or go he hops on a train to the mountain of Montserrat and you’ll be surprised at what happens, who he meets and the answers to where he belongs and what he hopes for just might be found.
Finding your way at times is not simple and yet Mikhail lost sight of himself all through the novel while Rick disappeared, Alex went to New York their final revelations and where they wind up will remain a mystery to readers and possibly to themselves as author Ivan Brave does not give us this final information leaving it to you the reader to decide what happened to each one of these friends. Friendships are frayed, loyalties are betrayed, and three young friends travel part of the globe only to find that no matter how far they tried to escape reality maybe you just can’t. From the beginning where we meet each of these young men getting to know them and trying to understand the Spanish dialogue to help readers with their encounters whether good or bad, we learn that sometimes you need to look inside yourself, look at your reflection, find your own way and not be influenced by the whims and needs of others as you too might decide to take your own journey and find yourself on THE SUMMER ABROAD of your life.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine/MJ Network
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