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“Theroux’s eye for landscape remains as sharp as ever . . . It’s Theroux’s remarkable gift for getting strangers to reveal themselves that makes going along for this ride worthwhile.” — New York Times Book Review
Paul Theroux has spent the past fifty years roaming the globe, describing his encounters with remote people and far-flung places in ten best-selling travel books. Now, for the first time, he explores a part of America—the Deep South. Setting out on a winding road trip, Theroux discovers a region of architectural and artistic wonders, incomparable music, mouth-watering cuisine—and also some of the worst schools, medical care, housing, and unemployment rates in the nation.
Yet, no matter where he goes, Theroux meets the unsung heroes of the South, the people who, despite it all, never left, and also those who found their way home and devoted their lives to rebuilding a place they could never live without.
“Paul Theroux’s latest travel memoir had me at hello . . . Theroux pulls no punches in his quest to understand this overlooked margin of American life.” — Boston Globe
“A vivid contemporary portrait of rural life . . . a deeply affecting personal account.” — Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Travel writer Theroux (Ghost Train to the Eastern Star) finds the traveling easier and his insights more penetrating in this engrossing passage through the South. Celebrating the wonders of American driving no more rattle-trap trains or jam-packed buses the New England native recounts several road trips from South Carolina through Arkansas, circling back to revisit places and people in a way he couldn't on his treks across foreign continents. His relaxed schedule lets him forget the journey and, instead, immerse himself in destinations that seem both familiar and strange ("Jesus is lord we buy and sell guns," reads a billboard). Avoiding tourist traps, Theroux seeks out gun shows, church services, seedy motels, and downscale diners such as Doe's Eat Place, in Greenville, Miss.; he insistently probes the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, and the appalling poverty of back-road towns abandoned by industry. All this emerges through vivid, novelistic reportage as he gently prods people for their stories, reveling in their musical dialects, mapping the intersections of personal experience and tragic history that give the South "a great overwhelming sadness that couldn't fathom." Free of the sense of alienation that marked his recent travelogues, this luminous sojourn is Theroux's best outing in years. Color photos.