Life on the Mississippi: An Epic American Adventure

Avid Reader. Aug. 2022. 416p. ISBN 9781501106378. $32.50. HIST
This book tells the story of journalist Buck’s (The Oregon Trail; Flight of Passage) quest to sail a flatboat 2000 miles down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from Pittsburgh to New Orleans with a varied crew and many helpers along the way. As the adventurous Buck writes, this four-month journey traced the inland water route often taken in the years between the American Revolution and Civil War. The narrative works as a memoir, a history treatise, and a travel adventure. The author comes to terms with his mother’s death on this journey, but he also places his traveling adventures into a broader historical framework of how flatboats epitomized frontier resilience and ingenuity. Simultaneously, he also explores modern politics and culture, reflects on economic realities both past and present, and considers both ugly and uplifting aspects of American history.
VERDICT The author’s use of cited local history books in libraries along his journey gives the book a strong factual basis as a history text, and his incorporation of literary words from writers of the flatboat era infuse his own writing with humor and poetic charm. Highly recommended for all libraries.
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