Sunday, December 31, 2006

Book Review: "America: A Love Story"

Like many non-Americans I have a strange attraction to the United States. Having neither the means nor the time to explore this vast continent on my own I am looking for substitutes to get intimately familiar with the different corners of America. This is what I was hoping to find in Torre B Isaksen's "America: A Love Story".

The author, Mr. Isaksen, a Norwegian-born sea captain, spent half a year traveling from Alaska to Florida, using his car. His travels took him through many states and he writes about the people and places he saw. Quite a few exciting events happened to him during the trip, but that is not what makes this book interesting. Where Mr. Isaksen really shines is in his narrative of all the original people he met on his travels, sometimes old friends, but most of the time just random encounters on his journey.

As the book title hints, Mr. Isaksen's unrelenting love for the US is ever-present throughout the pages, and often this is too much for the reader to swallow. While he keeps referring back to the vast amount of places he visited during his travels by sea, he always uses this information to point out the superiority of the American way, regardless of subject. His story often strays off on a tangent, and more often than not, this leads to the Vietnam war, which a significant number of fragments in the book is dedicated to.

As a travelogue throughout the US, the book contains a fair amount of memorable episodes and you get a feeling for the place and the people living there. However, the constant backtracking to Vietnam, the many romantic encounters on the road, and a few grammatical and spelling errors reduce the enjoyment from what could have been a great read. Despite these issues I still enjoyed the book and felt that I got a deeper and more intimate understanding of the US geography and people without actually being there.