New Yorker writer Hessler (Oracle Bones ) again proves himself America"/>

Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory

Peter Hessler, Author . HarperCollins $27.99 (438p) ISBN 978-0-06-180409-0

In his latest feat of penetrating social reportage, New Yorker writer Hessler (Oracle Bones ) again proves himself America's keenest observer of the New China. Hessler investigates the country's lurch into modernity through three engrossing narratives. In an epic road trip following the Great Wall across northern China, he surveys dilapidated frontier outposts from the imperial past while barely surviving the advent of the nation's uniquely terrifying car culture. He probes the transformation of village life through the saga of a family of peasants trying to remake themselves as middle-class entrepreneurs. Finally, he explores China's frantic industrialization, embodied by the managers and workers at a fly-by-night bra-parts factory in a Special Economic Zone. Hessler has a sharp eye for contradictions, from the absurdities of Chinese drivers' education courses—low-speed obstacle courses are mandatory, while seat belts and turn signals are deemed optional—to the leveling of an entire mountain to make way for the Renli Environmental Protection Company. Better yet, he has a knack for finding the human-scale stories that make China's vast upheavals both comprehensible and moving. The result is a fascinating portrait of a society tearing off into the future with only the sketchiest of maps. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 10/19/2009
Release date: 02/01/2010
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