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Faced with a double dose of mortality-his father's death and the prospect of turning 70-Caputo decided in 2011 to live a long-dormant dream. He hitched an Airstream trailer to a pickup truck and drove from the southernmost point of the U.S (Key West, Fla.) to the northernmost point (Deadhorse, Ala.). During the trip, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author (A Rumor of War) asked people he encountered one burning question: what keeps the nation together during this wobbly period of high unemployment and political fragmentation? Caputo avoids an exercise in earnest, neon-flashing patriotism by simply letting his smalltown subjects talk. The interviewees-including a husband-and-wife missionary team, a French-speaking saloon owner, and a young man looking for hope in a desperate Indian reservation-yield uncluttered insight into the makeup of the American spirit. Caputo also provides ample historical background to the trip's sites and a nice dose of humor. Curious and genuine, he weaves these elements together to produce a continental tale that is always engaging and frequently reassuring. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Miles traveled: 8,314. Vistas condemned: wind turbine farms. Vistas endorsed: the Natchez Trace and the Alaska Highway. Lesson learned: don't drive a trailer where you can't get it out. Such were Caputo's concrete experiences on a 2011 road trip in search of answers to a more ethereal question, What unifies America? That query, if already asked by literary roadsters like Jack Kerouac and John Steinbeck, bears repeating by writers of any stature, whether unknown or, like Caputo, renowned. Looking at age 70, Caputo felt a bucket-list impetus to drive the furthest border-to-border route in America: Key West, Florida, to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. With his pickup truck towing a symbol of highway wanderlust, an Airstream trailer, Caputo convinced his two dogs and, perhaps less quickly, his wife to climb aboard. Vowing to avoid interstates and motels, he loosely followed the historic route of Lewis and Clark. Injecting misadventures into the narrative, Caputo recounts an overland voyage that emphasizes the people he meets: Christian evangelicals; volunteers helping tornado-struck Tuscaloosa, Alabama; a Missouri farmer; residents of Pine Ridge Indian Reservation; and an assortment of Alaskan eccentrics. Pithily capturing their characters and opinions about the state of America, Caputo snares reading devotees of a classic American theme, the road trip. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A new book from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Caputo, famed for his soldier's memoir of the Vietnam conflict, A Rumor of War (1977), is always an event.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2010 Booklist