By Rinker Buck
Simon & Schuster, 2015, 450 pages, Non-Fiction
Buck's epic account of traveling the length of the Oregon Trail the old-fashioned way--in a covered wagon with a team of mules, an audacious journey that hasn't been attempted in a century--tells the rich history of the trail, the people who made the migration, and its significance to the country.
This book reminded me a lot of Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. Although not quite as humorous, it does include a quirky sidekick in the form of Buck’s foul-mouthed brother, Nick. The two play well off each other, and make an interesting combination. While there are settlements almost all along the trail now, and the brothers weren’t too far from civilization, they still encounter many of the same difficulties as those faced by the pioneers.
Some of my favorite parts occurred when Buck delves into the rich history of the trail. I was particularly interested in his discussion of the importance of mules in settling most of the U.S., and in the complex story of Narcissa Whitman, one of the first women to travel the Oregon Trail.
Buck does occasionally veer off into territory that doesn’t quite relate to his main purpose. However, the travelogue and history portions of the book were fascinating enough that I was able to overlook some of these small incongruences.
I listened to the audio version of this book, which is read by the author. He has a slightly halting voice, but once you get used to his rhythm the book is easy to listen to. I especially liked his impersonation of his brother Nick.