Interestingly enough, I hadn't read Sideways, Rex Pickett's novel of wine lust, though I heartily enjoyed the movie. When I was offered a chance to review the sequel, Vertical: Passion and Pinot on the Oregon Wine Trail, I realized it would make sense to read the first book as well. So I did.
If you've read the book, you know the movie Sideways stays pretty true to the novel, though I must admit that I could not imagine casting Thomas Haden Church in the role he simply owned, as he is not the big bear of a man that Jack is in the book. In any case, both the book and movie are enjoyable on many levels and are well worth searching out if you haven't come across them before.
Vertical, the sequel, has much of the same manic energy and humor, but it plumbs depths that were only hinted at in the first book. While the group (spoiler alert: this time it's a group traveling) enjoys the expected hijinks of a trip through a wine wonderland, this time the stakes are a lot higher due to Miles being famous for Sideways. Pickett makes me want to be a famous wine author, with oodles of outstanding wine being poured left and right for my gustatory pleasure. Loads of fun.
But...there's a darker side to this novel, a slow reveal of the deep-seated problems the characters experience over the course of their road trip. This melancholy both takes away from the book's goofy hedonistic side as well as adds a much more complex level that didn't exist in Sideways. You'll have to read the book to decide whether or not the two halves merge. For me it was almost too dark in that it overshadowed the lightness of the less serious, but I'm still on the fence whether that's good or bad.
Overall, Vertical is a more thoughtful novel than Sideways. My suggestion is to get both books and read them one after another, as I did - the comparison and contrast will be more evident and you can decide for yourself whether my review hits home or not. The books would also make a great gift any time of the year.
In any case, head over to Loose Gravel Press to buy the book and read more reviews.
*This book was provided for review purposes - all opinions are my own.
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