Book Review: This Van Could Be Your Life by Mishka Shubaly

I’ve read a few of Shubaly’s short memoirs before and I’m a big fan of his writing, which is insightful, darkly comic and incredibly honest. In previous books he’s recounted his time on the road as a musician, a failed attempt on reality TV, getting shipwrecked and becoming an ultra runner which helped to get him healthy and help with his sobriety.

This book picks him up at a difficult time, still pursuing his musical career and touring hard, coming out of a break up and having sustained an injury that has put an end to his running. At the same time his family are having a tough time, dealing with death, divorce and financial hard times.

With a family reunion planned in Northern Saskatchewan, Mishka decides that he, his mother, two sisters and four niblings should road trip up. He hopes that it will be like the holidays of his youth, which inspired his love of travel and he believes part of the reason he has never settled down, constantly chasing fulfilment upon the road. The family have their issues, strained relationships and growing distance, but Shubaly hopes that 4000 miles in an ancient, unreliable van will help them.

shubaly van

The book is low on incident, this isn’t a road trip of big moments and dramatic occurrences. Shubaly wants to reconnect with his sisters, to bridge the growing gap between them and to make peace with various feelings about his family. Over the course of the drive tempers fray, and mile after mile in a loud, hot van doesn’t help, but in Canada he gets some sense of closure, and finally talks things out with his family members.

It lacks the chaotic energy of some of his earlier work, but this is still a solidly written memoir and Shubaly is at times painfully honest about his issues and struggles, laying his fears and insecurities open. There are times when he perfectly captures his sense of being lost, confused and frustrated, talking about mistakes he’s made and worries he has. The family history, which is complicated, is explored honestly and unflinchingly, but Shubaly avoids the blame game, acknowledging failings on both sides.

In the end he reflects on what it means to be family, the good and bad part of the deal, and what he wants for his own family. It’s a short and engaging read, with Shubaly’s humour, honesty and introspection providing a winning combination.

Verdict: 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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