This account of an Atlantic-to-Pacific voyage over American waterways would have benefitted from some trimming. Overlong, festooned with ten-dollar words where fify-centers would have served as well, it's a mildly interesting read.
Since hitting the American roads in Blue Highways nearly 20 years ago, William Least Heat-Moon has been following another calling--to traverse America by its rivers. "I wanted to see those secret parts hidden from road travelers," he writes. And from the waterways of his 5,000-mile voyage, Least Heat-Moon shares a sharp and stirring vision of America. Filling a small bottle with brine from the Atlantic Ocean, Least Heat-Moon and his wise companion, whom he calls "Pilotis," start up the Hudson River in a 22-foot C-Dory that Least Heat-Moon has named Nikawa--from the Osage words ni for river and kawa for horse. The voyage--from New York harbor to the Pacific Ocean--packs surprises, wisdom, regrets, mishaps, candor, and conversations that readers who savored Blue Highways and PrairyErth will delight in. The impetus for River Horse is one of intrigue--less urgent than the departure in Blue Highways--and the narrative possesses a captivating pull as it courses westward through the strongest currents and pauses in the back eddies of contemporary American life. Least Heat-Moon is in his element. Written in short thematic chapters, River Horse plies canals, greets the Missouri's many moods, and challenges chaotic waves. Indeed, the turbulent and placid waters of America flow throughout this well-told story. When Nikawa finally reaches the Pacific Ocean, Least Heat-Moon has discovered a new America in the country he knows so well. He ponders the command that rivers hold on him and celebrates the national treasures that they are. Exceeding 500 pages, River Horse may be a long journey, but when traveling by rivers, America is a larger country. A triumphant book all the way to the salty Pacific. --Byron Ricks