I really enjoyed The Slow Road to Deadhorse and this was for many reasons. Firstly, I love travel books, where writers share their first-hand experiences of their trips, stop-offs and stays and you get a lot of that here. Secondly, sharing a window on the world is always stimulating, seeing where people have been and hearing those places described, providing insight but also ideas for future forays into exploration. Finally, James Anthony’s recount of his rather epic journey on his own (!) was particularly well-written with anecdotes and humour as well as history and encounters with Americans on the way from Florida to Deadhorse.
I think one of the things that really comes out of this book is the catharsis that James Anthony finds while he crosses the vastness of the States; the distraction in the distraction. There is a sense that he is a little lost from other events in his life and that the reason he has chosen to embark on such an adventure is a way of him re-finding himself and building confidence. Gaining perspective and reflecting on the way that his life has unfolded mean that this is more than just a travelogue. Brief encounters with a variety of different Americans provide Anthony with the chance to dwell on his feelings, his impressions, his assumptions, his expectations. There is nothing like travel to alter and shift your perspective and Anthony’s book illustrates this.
He is also very good at bringing the people who he meets to life, with recounts of his dialogue with them, and the generosity of strangers is something that comes out very strongly. I liked the places that he sought out on his trip which were not the highly commercialised normal hotspots and there is an overriding sense that this is a real America, full of characters and people just finding their way from day to day, interspersed with discussions of its history, culture and progression, but nothing too controversial or analytical.
One of the greatest appreciations that a reader gets from this book, especially as Anthony nears his goal the further north he travels, is the wilderness and wildlife that America has to offer and what a privilege it is to be able to experience this.
All in all, I flew through this book: there was so much to enjoy from the way it was written to what was included. A gem.
This review was first published on Reedsy Discovery where I was privileged to read it as an ARC.