April 10, 2015

River Horse by William Least Heat-Moon

Have you ever thought about traveling across America by boat?  No really, not around, across; through the rivers and portages taking each snakey way around the land in a trusty motorized boat or canoe.  Well Least Heat-Moon did, and with a friend (well a few friends at times) he did just that.  Having read his Blue Highways and enjoyed it, I figured this would be a good one too.

Later in life after having traveled the blue highways of America, and with an impending divorce, Least Heat-Moon decides that he wants to take another trip across America.  Only this time he wants to do it on a different kind of blue highway.  The watery kind.  So he buys a little boat, finds some friends who can help him on his way, and maps out a course where he can travel the most by river and by not having to use too many portages.  He meets people along the way, stops every night to rest in a different city, and learns what the majority of America's waterways look like.

Least Heat-Moon is a decent narrator.  He tells you a lot about himself and the people he travels with.  You get to hear a few stories about the people he meets along the way, but really not too many.  More often than not he's telling stories about the people he's traveling with's pasts and such.  He also treats the boat as if it were a person, and there's a ton of description and history behind the boat and why it's named what it is and why he chose such a boat.

While this was an interesting book I still don't feel as if I know America's waterways.  I know the laws, the ways that it has changed due to the damming and infrastructure and population of America, but I don't really recall too much in the way of scenery described.  Oh sure there was some, but not the in-depth descriptions I was looking for.  And that goes for almost everything aside from the boat itself.  I wanted to know more about the people and the nature scenes and I felt that it was a bit lacking in this book.  There was a lot of social commentary, a little politics, and a lot of personal history about the author and his friends.  Which made it seem more like a memoir than a travel narrative.

An ok book, but not quite what I had expected it to be.  If you're fond of Least Heat-Moon's writing, you'll like it.

River Horse
Copyright 1999
502 pages

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