Recommended by: Hillary has been recommending Sarah Vowell in general for years.
Borrowed from: the Sacramento Library
Rating: 6 out of 10
Synopsis: Essayist and public radio regular Vowell (Assassination Vacation) revisits America’s Puritan roots in this witty exploration of the ways in which our country’s present predicaments are inextricably tied to its past. In a style less colloquial than her previous books, Vowell traces the 1630 journey of several key English colonists and members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Foremost among these men was John Winthrop, who would become governor of Massachusetts. While the Puritans who had earlier sailed to Plymouth on the Mayflower were separatists, Winthrop’s followers remained loyal to England, spurred on by Puritan Reverend John Cotton’s proclamation that they were God’s chosen people. Vowell underscores that the seemingly minute differences between the Plymouth Puritans and the Massachusetts Puritans were as meaningful as the current Sunni/Shia Muslim rift. Gracefully interspersing her history lesson with personal anecdotes, Vowell offers reflections that are both amusing (colonial history lesson via The Brady Bunch) and tender (watching New Yorkers patiently waiting in line to donate blood after 9/11)
My review: I’m really glad I listened to this on audio book. Vowell has a very distinctive voice (she shows up on NPR sometimes) and her sarcasm was well played in her reading. Then again, it would have been easier for me to understand the huge cast of Puritans and Indians she talked about if I’d been able to page back through the book to see where we’d met before. I liked the book quite a bit, but Vowell’s politics got a little snarky and I though that some of the connections she used to make points were a little far-stretched. I would have preferred if she’d stayed in the past instead of trying to link with current events (heck, pretty much anything can be connected to anything else with a little effort). It was also intersting to learn about how Christianity (or, that form of it, at least — so much for “love your neighbor”!) played out among the Puritans. Definitely a very interesting history lesson, but I’ll prepare most of my more conservative-leaning friends that they might find the book a little aggravating. (Finished 8/4/09)