Micro-review: The Oregon Trail/A New American Journey, by Rinker Buck.
This book came out to a lot of advance publicity in 2015. It’s the story of the author’s and his brother’s covered wagon trip from Independence, Missouri to eastern Oregon, following the old Oregon Trail as closely as possible. I picked up the book because the Oregon Trail figures into my next novel, though the novel is set in modern times.
Verdict: worth reading. That’s a verdict perhaps 60% along the scale between execrable and brilliant. First the bad. The author occasionally dips into his childhood relationsip with his father. He does well explaining how it was an inspiration for the trip. Less well in that it shows us various slights and hurts which the author mentions but leaves unreconciled. The author injects his (horrible) politics and anti-religion bias into the narrative from time to time, apropos of nothing. The over-all effect of these elements on an emotional level was to give the book a feel of superficiality. It had a faint aftertaste: the author is an unhappy man.
But now the good. You may come away from this book proud of your countrymen. Plenty of stories of generosity and goodwill of people they met along the way. Very good description, especially at key points along the route, such as Independence Rock, South Pass, and the Snake River basin. At times you feel like you’re there, either in the 1900’s with the westering pioneers, or in the 21st century looking for the remnants of the trail.
But you probably won’t imagine travelling with the author.