Have you ever read a book that broke your heart and over the course of 300 or so pages carefully put it back together again? That’s what happened with The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart, a gorgeously written book about a young girl and her dad and the epic road-trip they take to get back home again.
Coyote and her father Rodeo have lived in a converted school bus, lovingly named Yager, for the last five-years, traveling across the country with no end in sight. Everything they need is on that bus and everything they might want can be found wherever the bus takes them.
Their life is wild and free with little rhyme or reason. There are very few rules (“no-goes,” they’re called) that Coyote and her father follow but they are there, mostly in place to keep moving forward, with little regard for their past or how they ended up there. When they got on the road they shed their lives and names and memories, shoving it all so far down that any mention of home or their lives before the bus are avoided at all costs.
Coyote and Rodeo would be as content to keep zigzagging across the country if it weren’t for a call that changed everything. Coyote doesn’t have a cell-phone but she does check in with her grandma back home now and then and one summer day her grandma tells her about a beloved park back that’s about to be demolished. This park isn’t just any park from home. It’s the park that holds a memory box from before an accident that claimed her sisters and mother and that box sets her off on a risky plan to propel her and Rodeo back home—upending their lives and breaking the only rules they’ve bothered following. “No-goes” all around.
What follows is a rollicking, wonderful adventure. Along the way, they pick up strays and people in need, adding to their pack of two slowly and surely with every mile. There’s Ivan, a kitten Coyote adopted from a gas station parking lot; Lester, a young man musician, Salvador and his mom, who helped Coyote when she accidentally got left behind, and Val, a young woman who needed a ride.
Each of these people that were along for the ride were so real and full of life. Salvador was kind and sweet and tough, Lester was good and funny and loyal. They added a richness to the story that made the book feel like multiple books rolled into one for the depth each of their narratives brought to it. I loved all of these characters so much that it felt like leaving friends behind when I was done with the book. I took my time with this one, even though I wanted to devour it. It felt good to let the book unfold slowly, rather than tearing through it. I appreciated the care that went into every detail and characters. It’s Coyote’s story but it easily could have been Lester’s or Salvador’s or Val’s.
Coyote is sweet character who despite everything she’s been through still manages to have a positive outlook and wry sense of humor about everything. She’s incredibly intuitive and manages to help so many along the way, gathering people into her little unit and creating a found family among the Yager’s riders.
I wish I could give a copy of this book to everyone I ever met. If we had to bury a time capsule for future generations to showcase what amazing art and writing is, I would wholeheartedly recommend this one. It has heart and soul. I might have cried a few times during the whole experience but I felt better for it afterward. Overall, it was an incredibly cathartic read. This book is warm and kind and perfect and cinematic. I can see this being made into a movie and joining the ranks of classic feel-good family movies. I need to be able to revisit it again and again in multiple forms so I hope it gets adapted at some point.
The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise made me crave a long road trip with the windows down and the music loud. In fact, I read most of this book while on a train and I recommend taking this one outside and enjoying it out in the open, maybe on vacation or as you amble along on your own road-trip. Just be aware that it may cause you to cry or at the very least get a lump in your throat. You’ll be okay afterwards, though, and feel all the better for reading it. You might even have to sit with it for a while. I know I did. It will make you realize that lost things aren’t lost forever, that kindness can be found even in the most unexpected places and as much sadness as there is in the world, there is also happiness and love and laughter and that the journey to finding all of those things is definitely worth it.
So, thank you Dan Gemeinhart for sharing Coyote’s story. It was truly remarkable.