Joyride by Jack Ketchum was an incredibly difficult book for me to read. At first I had trouble putting finger on why that was (other than the obvious amount of sexual violence against women).
But as I continued to read, it began to dawn on me that the author depicted women as whimpering pitiful creatures flickering around violent men like moths to a flame. And beyond that, these women deserved the violence they received because they were weak.
In Joyride, the strong, the cruel, and the violent aren’t just given the right to commit violence, but rather, they have it imbued into them with a level of entitlement that’s breathtaking. Wayne, a point of view character and one of the most unlikable characters I’ve ever read, sees anyone who believes they have a right to happiness as weak—and therefore worthy of his violence. Yes, he keeps a little book of wrongs that he’s addressing, but it’s a pitiful plot device on the author’s part. Wayne’s real motivation for violence is simply because he wants to.
The women in this book are so quick to fall back onto their heels (even when Carole’s smashed rocks into her ex-husband’s skull only a few pages before) that they can’t even fight back. Wayne’s girlfriend wants to get back together with him after he nearly kills her. And when questioned about her brutal assault and rape by Wayne, Carole doesn’t dissociate or exhibit any sign of the rage that drove her to kill Howard. Instead she coolly and rather calmly lies to Wayne about the event while being too afraid of him to try to end his joyride.
Instead of wait so docilely for the men to abuse or threaten them, I wanted to see these characters take the fight on the offensive and not be such innocent naifs. I didn’t believe that Carole would fall for Wayne’s repairman act or allow Lee to be lured into the trap as well. I didn’t believe that between the two of them, Carole and Lee had no way to overpower Wayne for all that time on the road.
But I suppose it’s easier to motivate the plot forward when the women shriek and fling their hands up.