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Was this a great book? No. Was it even a good book? Not really. Not unless you find riding 13,978 miles around our country with a paunchy, sarcastic, middle aged, cheap-ass, wuss of a man across the United States. At least that how he describes himself… (Well, I added the wuss part, cause it's true.) Then I thought about it, he could have shined it all up with poetic lilts to describe the unique beauty inherent into each little town and turned this into a fake tribute to America's variety and beauty. But he didn't. He was honest, (refreshing!) humorous, and painted the picture as he saw it, allowing us to see the country and himself through his eyes. I can respect that.
Bill Bryson grew up in Des Moines, Iowa. As soon as he reached adulthood he fled his dull, idyllic, mid-west life and spent the next decade or so in the UK. Now 36 years old, (1987) with a wife and kids, he returns to home to a country that is barely recognizable to him. His father, the architect of the arduous road trips of his youth has passed, baseball teams were in the wrong cities, old city squares were supplanted by strip malls… This trip was journey to reconcile his past with his present, his father's presence in himself, and rediscover the home he had left behind, and to some degree lost. Upon his return to Iowa, a waitress asks him, “You're not from around here, are ya?"
All of those inferences aside, I would have loved for him to just once to go beyond the window facade that is a small town's center, make a connection with a local, and uncover the magic that lives there. I'm a small town kid, and we had a hate/love relationship with tourists. They infused enough money into our business for them to thrive during the summer and survive the winter, but we didn't want them hanging around and mucking the place up. Only a select few were invited in to see the magic, and more often than not, they'd stay… If I was a waitress waiting on the Bill Bryson of this book, I would have handed him his check and sent him on his way too…