cover image I'll Ask You Three Times, Are You OK? Tales of Driving and Being Driven

I'll Ask You Three Times, Are You OK? Tales of Driving and Being Driven

Naomi Shihab Nye, . . Greenwillow, $15.99 (242pp) ISBN 978-0-06-085392-1

Nye brings a keen curiosity and a poet's sensibility to this smooth, anecdotal collection that amplifies the notion that the journey itself is the destination. The most memorable characters are taxi drivers, such as the Syracuse, N.Y., cabbie whose conversation gives the book its title: driving her to the airport before dawn, he warns Nye that he will ask three times if she is okay, “Just to make sure you feel safe and secure. We're living in strange times, and I want you to feel very comfortable.” In other highlights of Nye's tour, she re-creates the voices of a rickshaw driver in India who tries to talk her into visiting a rug store instead of the Taj Mahal; the Glasgow driver who invites her to sit in front with him and bids her farewell with, “Okay then, be safe to the other side of the sea”; and an Egyptian driver in New York City who boasts of trafficking in counterfeit handbags. Nye muses on what she learns on specific travels and shares stories about driving other people (among them, possibly senile strangers, distinguished visiting writers and her own son). Aside from some name-dropping and some mildly self-indulgent moments, Nye's prose flows fluidly and evokes any number of different settings. She makes her case that “what happen[s] in the margins, on the way to the destinations of any day, might be as intriguing as what happen[s] when you {get] there.” All ages. (Sept.)