Motorcycles I've Loved by Lily

Motorcycles I’ve Loved
Lilly Brooks-Dalton
Riverhead Books 2015

ISBN 978-1-59463-321-8

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“. . . a joyful story.”

A young woman whizzing down the road on a motorcycle is no doubt a dangerous thrill, a challenge I’ve desired, but never brave enough to attempt. Thus, I was intrigued with Lilly Brooks-Dalton’s memoir, “Motorcycles I’ve Loved.” I wasn’t disappointed but yet not thrilled with how she recounts her relationship with motorcycles.

In each of the twenty chapters she wraps her life story around physics — velocity, entropy, and when explaining matter she writes, “that which has mass and occupies space, (is) the fabric of the universe.” Though the lessons are intriguing, they rather seem to be filler, to compensate for the dearth of “hair-raising” motorcycle trips; instead, the physics detail bogs down the dynamics of her story.

And Brooks-Dalton has a story to tell, one which can’t easily be replicated in the 21st century. First, she spent three-a-half years traveling overseas, including Europe. Currently, American citizens are limited to a 90-day stay when visiting the twenty-six European countries in the passport-free Schengen Zone. Secondly, she launches her journey at age 17, because her parents, “taught me to think for myself—to trust my instincts, to use my head, and to do what seemed best.” Now that parents today are arrested for allowing their children to be “free range,” it would seem not many American teenagers are prepared to venture off alone to explore the world.

Brooks-Dalton doesn’t live a dangerous life, and though she does drugs and booze, she remains level-headed. She also leaves her boyfriend and new life in Australia, returns to Vermont, goes to college, and earns a scholarship to Oxford. “Riding the ridge between reason and recklessness, stillness and speed, is the first, maybe the most important, thing I learned about motorcycles,” she writes.

Her finale is a cross-country trip with her father, who taught her at an early age to love motorcycles. Not quite an adrenaline rush in this read, but still a joyful story.

Reviewer: Kate Padilla