In the 1960′s, John Steinbeck felt as though he lost his connection with America, so he set out with is French Poodle, Charley, to rediscover it. He basically traveled in a great loop around the country – beginning with New York across to Washington, down the coast, and through the southern states. Since I have had a bad case of wanderlust recently, this book was great for me!
Along the way, Steinbeck tried to make friends with the locals to get a feel for their particular locale. He did not throw around his name, but he did use Charley shamelessly to get his foot in the door. Steinbeck’s narrative was very endearing to me. I felt he was really honest in what he wanted to say. There were some places that he loved, but others that really irritated him. Overall, at the end of the trip, I’m not sure that he was able to reconnect with America because the country itself is so unconnected in many ways, and I think Steinbeck really mourned this.
In many ways this book is outdated, but I felt that this was some of the charm in the book. I loved how Steinbeck described trailer parks with utter astonishment, it was humorous to hear him talk about traffic in the metropolitan cities and the vastness of Texas (he apparently did not like the state), and he spoke about civil rights issues with passion and fury. I would recommend this book – it is light and other than his tendency at the beginning to skip around from subject to subject every paragraph it was a solid read.