First published in 1982, William Least Heat-Moon's account of his journey along the back roads of the United States (marked with the color blue on old highway maps) has become something of a classic. When he loses his job and his wife on the same cold February day, he is struck by inspiration: "A man who couldn't make things go right could at least go. He could quit trying to get out of the way of life. Chuck routine. Live the real jeopardy of circumstance. It was a question of dignity."
Driving cross-country in a van named Ghost Dancing, Heat-Moon (the name the Sioux give to the moon of midsummer nights) meets up with all manner of folk, from a man in Grayville, Illinois, "whose cap told me what fertilizer he used" to Scott Chisholm, "a Canadian citizen ... [who] had lived in this country longer than in Canada and liked the United States but wouldn't admit it for fear of having to pay off bets he made years earlier when he first 'came over' that the U.S. is a place no Canadian could ever love." Accompanied by his photographs, Heat-Moon's literary portraits of ordinary Americans should not be merely read, but savored.
Had my atlas out tracing his journey the entire time I read it. Picked this book up on a fluke and was so glad I did....made me want to take a few months off and drive the country.
A unique travelogue. Lots of historical data and stories about places visited.
A little disappointing at the end. Guess I wanted a better ending to the personal
and private part of the story.
I love the back roads and enjoyed reading this classic tale. The good thing about the story, it is really a series of short stories and you can read it at any pace that you want, but then it also lacks an overall plot, which is probably typical of a travel log such as this. The real beauty of the tale is how you feel that you are right there with Least Heat Moon in the passengers seat.
What a fabulous book - this is a tale of William as he travels across the US after "taking a break" from his job - he meets so many average yet fascinating individuals, learns about local lore and about the past inhabitants of these towns. This book revealed simply yet beautifully how the mundane can become the extraordinary.