August, a science teacher, is struggling with many different issues when we meet him at the start of this novel. His vacation is not off to a good start with the breakdown of his RV barely after the start of his trip. He is stranded in a small town while a local mechanic fixes the problems, with what August hopes will not be too large a cost. August is an alcoholic who has taken steps to seek help and is currently sober. His teenage son, Phillip, has died in a car accident and he is carrying some of Phillip's ashes to Yellowstone Park. This trip was supposed to be one they made together.Now August will be scattering Phillip's ashes along the way with only his loyal dog, Woody, for company. Woody does tend to steal the show when he can.
As August waits in the heat, he meets the mechanic's young sons, Seth and Henry. In an amazing turn of events our mechanic asks August to take his sons for the summer because he has to serve a prison sentence and no one else can help. He is also an alcoholic but has not come to terms with his disease. August decides to take them with him against his better judgment. The descriptions for the various national parks they visited are vivid and you can feel the healing take place for them all as the summer advances.
When August has to take them back to their father, he tries to figure out a way to keep them so he can remove them from the situation they have. But the reality is, they must stay. August tries to find ways to stay in touch through skype and telephone calls over the years, but they all drift off into their own worlds. As the boys age, they find ways to survive. When Seth calls to visit, August has changed. He has aged and can no longer take his annual summer trips in the RV. He offers to give it to Seth and both boys surprise him with a visit and trip. This will be a different trip due to Augusts' health but the boys surprise him with a special destination. This is a good solid read.