AMERICAN ROAD: The Story of an Epic Transcontinental Journey at the Dawn of the Motor Age

Pete Davies, Author . Holt $26 (304p) ISBN 978-0-8050-6883-2

In his newest book, Davies (Inside the Hurricane; The Devil's Flu) offers a play-by-play account of the 1919 cross-country military caravan that doubled as a campaign for the Lincoln Highway (so named for the one Republican the corporate leaders of the day figured most Americans would embrace). The potential here is extraordinary. Using the progress of the caravan and the metaphor of paving toward the future versus stagnating in the mud, Davies touches on the industrial and social factors that developed the small and mid-sized towns that line the highways and byways of the nation. But instead of allowing the story of the caravan to anchor a series of more engaging essays on the people, politics and development of the lands it connects, the author insists on a day-to-day narrative of breakdowns, muddy roads and ice cream socials (the convoy left just days after Prohibition became law). Officers attend fancy dinners, enlisted men "dance with local girls," and the arrival of two miles' worth of dusty and cantankerous machinery is the greatest moment in every life in every town. Eisenhower, a future military legend and U.S. president, makes an early cameo as a young, frustrated officer who takes part in the convoy in the hopes of reinvigorating a stalled army career. Even this little twist fails to engage the reader, as Ike becomes yet another faceless character in a tale paced not unlike the caravan it chronicles—slow. (July)

Reviewed on: 06/10/2002
Release date: 07/01/2002
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-8050-7297-6
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-4668-6282-1
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