Travel writer Theroux (Ghost Train to the Eastern Star) finds the traveling easier and his insights more penetrating in this engrossing passage through the South. Celebrating the wonders of American driving—no more rattle-trap trains or jam-packed buses—the New England native recounts several road trips from South Carolina through Arkansas, circling back to revisit places and people in a way he couldn't on his treks across foreign continents. His relaxed schedule lets him forget the journey and, instead, immerse himself in destinations that seem both familiar and strange ("Jesus is lord—we buy and sell guns," reads a billboard). Avoiding tourist traps, Theroux seeks out gun shows, church services, seedy motels, and downscale diners such as Doe's Eat Place, in Greenville, Miss.; he insistently probes the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, and the appalling poverty of back-road towns abandoned by industry. All this emerges through vivid, novelistic reportage as he gently prods people for their stories, reveling in their musical dialects, mapping the intersections of personal experience and tragic history that give the South "a great overwhelming sadness that [he] couldn't fathom." Free of the sense of alienation that marked his recent travelogues, this luminous sojourn is Theroux's best outing in years. Color photos. Agent: Andrew Wylie, Wylie Agency. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 05/11/2015 Release date: 09/29/2015 Genre: Nonfiction
During the Covid-19 crisis, Publishers Weekly is providing free digital access to our magazine, archive, and website. To receive the access to the latest issue delivered to your inbox free each week, enter your email below.