The National Road: Dispatches from a Changing America

Tom Zoellner. Counterpoint, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-1-64009-290-7
Journalist Zoellner (Island on Fire) draws on his extensive travels across the U.S. over the past 30 years in these eloquent essays that examine the relationship between the American landscape and the national character. He sketches the history of American migrations, including the Mormon Church’s push westward and the relocation of millions of African Americans from the South to other parts of the country, and notes declining mobility rates over the past half-century. (“A country on the move seems to be more reluctant than ever to pick up and go, even when prospects are grim.”) Zoellner’s investigation into how people are shaped by the places where they live and work includes visits to the set of a pornographic filmmaker in the San Fernando Valley and the birthplace of Mormon leader Joseph Smith in Vermont, and reminiscences of his work at newspapers in Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. In the final essay, he details the painful experience of watching workers demolish his deceased grandmother’s “hand-built ranch house” in Arizona to make room for a new family’s “rambling faux-Florentine palace.” Zoellner laces this rambling yet incisive account with perceptive character sketches and astute observations. The result is a poignant reminder that in America, “constant change is our blotchy and beautiful inheritance.” Agent: Brettne Bloom, the Book Group. (Oct.)
Reviewed on : 07/30/2020
Release date: 10/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 978-1-64009-291-4
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