Review: Vertical, Passion and Pinot On The Oregon Wine Trail, by Rex Pickett

VerticalI received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review. I have not read the book Sideways, I only saw the movie.

I’ve waited a good bit since finishing this book to write a review because my opinion of Miles and Jack has not changed from Sideways. I really disliked them then and I still do – maybe more so. Maya, the saving grace of Sideways, is completely absent from Vertical because Miles is a shit that no woman would stay with unless held captive.

Whew, ok, now that I’ve got that off my chest, let me just say that inexplicably, the book is still a good read and I hope a movie follows. Maybe Rex Pickett is a literary genius who irritates me with his characters to the point that I cannot put the book down?

I have a permanent low-key distraction throughout this book that begins on Page 1. Miles explains that he is riding the wave of success of a book he wrote that was made into a movie, about he and his friend Jack’s wine guzzling carousing. The book/movie in Vertical is called Shameless. This really drove me crazy because … Sideways…. not Shameless.

The narrative of the story is that Miles is now on a publicity campaign due to his wildly successful book/movie. He calls up Jack to accompany him on a leg of events from California to Oregon and then travel with him to help him relocate his aging mother, who is in poor health but wants to move to Wisconsin. Jack is a washed up and divorced loser, so he and Miles have kind of traded places from the Sideways story. If you recall Jack from Sideways, you are lying if you don’t admit to being a little bit happy that Jack has ended up lonely and broke.

Along the way, we must read the nitty-gritty details of Jack and Miles drunken debauchery including a scene where Miles dumps a spit bucket over his head while on stage as the guest speaker at wine industry event — all to resounding applause and approval from the audience. I found this very hard to believe, even in a fictional setting.

Miles finds himself in the predicament of continuing on the trip, driving from Oregon to Wisconsin, without the help of the nurse he hired to help care for his mother, or Jack.  The nurse bails because the situation is intolerable even with the perks of expensive wine and nice accommodations. Jack bails because, well, he’s Jack.

Once Miles is alone, the story improves greatly. Despite being a narcissistic alcoholic, he makes a heroic effort to care for his Mother, meet her needs (which includes a love of wine) and in the end abide by her wishes and promises he made to her. I will not give anything away here, but I suspect this was easier for Miles to do than it would be for the average person.

It is this second half of book that is actually compelling, as it deeply examines familial relationships and the meaning of life in a way that is very real and allows us to look into the rearview mirror of septuagenarian at the end of her life. It also allows insight into the things that may have wounded and scarred Miles and perhaps explains some of what makes him the way he is.

This review would not be complete without mentioning that Miles’ overuse of big words and cerebral vocabulary continues throughout this book, to the point of becoming somewhat asinine. Here is an example:

“We rode on through the beautiful topography of Idaho and western Montana, passing grassy valleys speckled with feckless livestock grazing under an amplitude of celestially blue skies, punctuated here and there by mushrooming cumulus. “

Please pick up a copy (here is the link to purchase the book on Amazon) and let me know your thoughts — especially about the whole Sideways/Shameless name switch — here I am at the end of my review and I’m still annoyed about that.


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