A Deadly Wandering’s greatest strength is its level of detail. Matt Richtel gives the reader incredibly intricate descriptions of characters, events, and statistics.
Richtel provides a particularly vivid depiction of Reggie Shaw’s bedroom on page 13.
“He lived in the room he’d once shared with his older brother Nick. It was all boy; Chicago Cubs wallpaper covered the bottom third of the wall. There was a poster of his favourite basketball player, Reggie Miller, but the star’s bio was covered up by a picture of Jesus, looking serene, wearing a white shirt with a red robe over it.”
This passage is excellent because Richtel goes beyond merely mentioning some facts about Shaw’s room. By giving such a detailed description of Reggie’s room, Richtel paints a picture of Reggie’s character—that of a sweet young boy. Shaw’s religiousness is expertly highlighted by Richtel, as his account of the boy’s Jesus picture shows that while Reggie loves sports, his faith matters most to him.
Richtel also writes in this colourful style when he presents research. He uses both quotes from researchers and his own words to describe science. His description on page 119 is one such example of Richtel’s devotion to detailed research.
“Use of electrodes also allowed researchers to measure the time that it takes the brain to reallocate resources when attention shifts. Say someone saw a flash of light. About one hundred milliseconds after the introduction of this new visual simulation, the person showed changes at the neurological level.”
Here, Richtel describes the specific details of the science (one hundred milliseconds), the method of research (electrodes), and a clear, tangible action to demonstrate to a layman (flashing light). He does these things while making it part of a cohesive whole that combines important information with a strong narrative.
Richtel’s diverse methods of presenting information is very inviting to readers because it provides facts without making A Deadly Wandering feel as if it is a dense read, like that of a textbook.
The author’s attention to detail comes at a cost to the reader as well. His descriptive writing style greatly hinders the pace of the book, as his focus veers from one subject to another. Richtel shows this excessive writing tendency on page 101.
“‘ANNE TREISMAN IS BRILLIANT,’ says Dr. Gazzaley. ‘She was a pioneer.’
Dr. Gazzaley sits at Maverick’s, an upscale eatery serving American comfort food. The restaurant is a one-minute walk from the Gazzloft, so close that Maverick’s lets Dr. Gazzaley and his girlfriend, Jo, take home the plates when they order out.”
Richtel writes this passage with such great detail that it could make the reader think that the info being provided is important. It adds some character development to Dr. Gazzaley but this description of Maverick’s distracts the reader from Anne Treisman’s story and research.
Richtel doesn’t mention her until the next page. Unfortunately, he does not immediately describe Treisman’s research. He provides some back-story to Anne instead before describing her work.
The good thing about Richtel’s distractions from the main narrative of the story is that these writings show the author’s great level of devotion to character development, history, and scene description.
The meandering journey that A Deadly Wandering takes to tell a story of a fatal car accident is mostly enhanced by this uneven writing style. Richtel’s unconventional book helps the reader discover information about things like tragedy, texting, attention, and history that would have been left unsolved if Richtel decided to stick to conventional, straightforward storytelling.
Richtel’s willingness to explore topics beyond the main focus of the book and relate them to Reggie Shaw’s tragic car crash makes A Deadly Wandering a compelling read. The book’s numerous story angles, and Richtel’s thorough research make it one of the most informative and challenging reads I’ve ever faced.