Released On: 03/05/2023
He wasn’t trying to break America. But would America break him?
Rocked by political turmoil, climate change and a global pandemic, the US was calling out for a hero. Unfortunately, it was travel writer Chris Atkin who turned up.
Over the course of nearly two years living in the Golden State, Chris explores the history and incredible landscapes of western America.
He learns about the unsolved murder of the co-founder of Stanford University and the pioneer family reduced to cannibalism. He also finds the entrepreneurial spirit at the heart of California, which, for all of Silicon Valley’s success stories, is equally central to the tale of how hippies came to benefit when nearly three tonnes of marijuana fell from the skies above Yosemite.
When not living next door to Donkey from Shrek, Chris dodges bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes and Covid-deniers, and discovers there’s more than one way to live the American Dream.
Thanks to Chris for the advanced copy of his book in return for an honest review.
This is the first travel book that I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing so I was going in totally blind. I also don’t read a whole lot of non-fiction in general, so that added a little more excitement.
I’ve never been to the States and if I’m honest, apart from a couple of places, I’ve never had a great desire to visit, so I was interested to see what Chris’s experience of California was like.
I know next to nothing about American geography, so to read his descriptions of everything from the mundane everyday living to further exploration was fascinating, and got me googling to find out more and get an idea as to what it all looked like. Especially as it’s coming from the outside perspective of a British man temporarily in the USA.
It didn’t feel like a factual book like others I’ve read. It almost reads like a novel, with this poetic flow to the sentences. You can sometimes get bogged down in non-fiction books, but this was so easy to read, like talking to a friend that you end up flying through it.
I’m happy to report that most of the chapters are short. I’ve mentioned in previous reviews of mine about my love for short chapters and this fits into that category. It means you can read one more chapter before bed, and another, and, if you’re like me, another.
He’s managed to weave together his day-to-day experiences, humorous anecdotes, and American history, without it feeling stilted or jumpy. Every piece compliments the next. But there’s no sugar coating here. He’s included the good bits and the bad, the easy and the hard.
It is about 3/4 hiking stories, which I quite like, as having a physical disability means I can’t go walking as much as I used to, so I can live through the tales in this book. But if that’s not your interest, then it’s probably not going to be your kind of book. But even the descriptions of the scenery alone is worth the read, in my opinion.
I read this whilst there was a hail thunderstorm outside, and it was the perfect accompaniment to the dark and wintery afternoon that so often frequents a British springtime.