Book review: States of Confusion: My 19,000-Mile Detour to Find Direction

Here’s a repost of a book I read and reviewed last year.  If you like stories about road trips through the United States, Paul Jury’s States of Confusion: My 19,000-Mile Detour to Find Direction may be a good bet for you!

Young man drives all over America to find himself…

Jan 31, 2013 (Updated Jan 31, 2013)
Review by    is a Top Reviewer on Epinions in Books

Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Well-written, funny, engaging and entertaining.

Cons:Loses a little steam toward the end of the book.

The Bottom Line: Highly recommended!

A couple of years ago, I stumbled across an article about Paul Jury and his 2011 book, States of Confusion: My 19,000-Mile Detour to Find Direction.  To be honest, I don’t remember what it was about the article I read that made me want to read the book; I only know that after I read, I went to Amazon.com and bought.  I downloaded his book to my Kindle and there it sat for almost two years.  I finally read it this month, finishing it in less than 48 hours.  And now I’m a little embarrassed it sat in the queue for as long as it did.

Who is Paul Jury and what is his book about?

After graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in film, Paul Jury was at a loss as to what he should do next.  He grew up in Minneapolis and had a girlfriend named Sarah who was in Chicago, earning a degree in law.  A lot of Paul’s friends had found lucrative jobs and were on their way to do something with their lives.  Paul was floundering, having worked a couple of unsatisfying dead end jobs that ultimately led to nowhere.  Somehow, Paul came up with the idea to spend 48 days driving to each of the 48 continental states.

He had it all figured out.  He would drive his parents’ 1993 Eurovan, affectionately dubbed the Spacemobile.  He would sleep in the van and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  He would stick to side roads, making a point of doing something “interesting” in each state.  And he would stick to a budget.  He had saved up $3000, which would fund his adventure.

Things went awry from the very beginning, when the Spacemobile had problems that made it impossible to drive.  Paul embarked on his trip in his father’s Ford Taurus, which he called “The Imposter”, with plans to come back to get the Spacemobile when it was operational again.  Once he got on the road, he found that sometimes the best laid plans lead one somewhere completely different from where they thought they’d end up.

My thoughts

I really enjoyed reading States of Confusion.  Paul Jury is an entertaining writer with an excellent sense of humor.  Most of all, I really related to him.  When I was fresh out of college, I had my own identity crisis, which led me to join the Peace Corps.  That was sort of my place to “find myself”… only I kind of didn’t.  Anyway, I related to Jury’s search to figure out his life and I liked the way he characterized some of the people he met on his journey.

From wading in a snake filled fetid lake of brown sludge in Missouri in search of his car keys, to swilling beer with two recent jailbirds in Arkansas, to being waited on by a one armed waitress in Vermont, to meeting a Waffle House heiress in Mississippi, to having a massive breakdown in Montana, Paul Jury got a real taste of Americana.  He shares that taste with his readers, everything from the genuine boredom he experienced to the panic he felt at times when inevitable trouble cropped up.

As I read States of Confusion, I pictured myself undertaking a similar road trip and realized I wouldn’t want to do it, as exciting as it seemed.  I think I would get lonely, though Paul did keep a blog, carried a cell phone, and bunked with some friends.  Also, he mentions that he got awfully ripe, thanks to a lack of laundry and shower facilities.  At the end of the book, Paul comes to some satisfying conclusions.  My only complaint is that it seemed a little like his story lost a little steam the further west he went… but maybe that’s to be expected, given the state of the Spacemobile.


This is a great book, especially for those who enjoy funny memoirs about regular people.  Yes, Paul’s road trip is a bit wacky, but it’s fun to read about and imparts some universal truths that may be especially valuable to young readers.  I definitely recommend States of Confusion, especially to anyone looking for direction.

For more information: http://paulpjury.com


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