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America by Land Hardcover – April 6, 1993


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With terse and arresting images and lyricism as deft as Michael Ondaatje's, this diverting road book unwinds its simple story of love and discovery through the dams and canyons, plains and deserts of interstate-America. Raymond Romeo Redfield rides his Harley west on hush money from a near-fatal mining accident that has left him with six months' wages and busted ribs. He's riding to his cousin Juliet, who is alone in New Mexico. She has just given up her baby for adoption, and when Redfield arrives, it's clear that her wounds equal his. Redfield's near-manic energy fuels nonstop comebacks that make strangers laugh and think him a young genius. (A state trooper asks, "You ever been in any trouble?" and Redfield says, "Yeah, I used to wet the bed.") Setting off together on his bike, Juliet and Redfield follow a route his father once took, checking their progress against snapshots from 1948. As they unravel the country, the fragile taboo of first-cousin incest adds a courtly languour to their inevitable romance. Olmstead ( Soft Water ) captures the intensity of their love and its brooding youthfulness, while the view through their motorcycle helmets gives the reader something delicious, absurd or tragic to stop for on every page. The characters they meet speak with honed and individual voices, and every locale is drawn with exactly the kind of quirky detail you'd imagine a brilliant 23-year-old and his love would notice. The surprise of the conclusion is wholly incidental to the pleasures of the writing. Redfield has the same unpredictable sexiness on the page that James Dean had on screen.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

When Redfield, an aimless, smart-talking college dropout, embarks on a motorcycle odyssey from the East Coast to New Mexico to help his cousin, Juliet, he ultimately discovers what he's looking for. This fourth book by Olmstead (following A Trail of Heart's Blood Wherever We Go , LJ 5/15/90; Soft Water , LJ 3/15/88; and River Dogs , LJ 5/1/87) is a spare, Hemingwayesque slice of the lives of two troubled people. It's reminiscent of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance , but with an edge. As Redfield travels by motorcycle, first alone, then with Juliet, the reader encounters colorful characters with names like Old Black Dog, Ostrich Lady, and Asphalt, each with his or her own story. Juliet and Redfield enjoy each other's company, then travel on to their ultimate liberating goal: to find Juliet's child and reclaim it, thereby reclaiming their own lives. Recommended for general fiction collections.
- Rosellen Brewer, Monterey Bay Area Cooperative Lib. System, Cal.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 239 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (April 6, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679411305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679411307
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,160,609 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jay on November 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The reader knows s/he is in the hands of a craftsman, a wordsmith. Olmstead feels deeply and writes beautifully, translating life through two people who are running from and running after a life of integrity and wholeness--on a Harley.

They are first cousins, years apart in age, who love each other completely and desperately; each offers the other a reason to hold on and ride through landscape as rich and colorful as the mistakes they've made and replay painfully. The miles and canyons slide by and they find their way back to New Mexico and a commitment to each other.

This is a slow read because it has to be, a slow unraveling of distance and feeling. Though they move swiftly on the Harley, their story cannot. Read this book for its clarity of language and feeling, for Olmstead knows the wayward ways of the human heart.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By ignacio f. on January 20, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This kind of writing is "literistic." This means: no one has ever talked or had thoughts like the ones shown, but the purple prose sounds awfully pretty within the author's head. It's often the kind of prose generated in writing workshops.

Example: "She lies down and thinks about rest, thinks about forgiveness."

No she didn't. Not like that.

When our hero and heroine are having sex:

"He think: This is my life.
She thinks: This is my life."

It's all the author striking a pose, trying to sound literary. The characters, to the extent they exist at all, merely cast shadows from afar.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
I didn't like the novel because it was slow.
The two main characters were Romeo (Raymond) and Juliet...right from the beginning I knew there'd be trouble.
It was not until at least 70 pages in did I understand the reason behind Raymond's trek. Also, every character the two of them met on their trip thought Raymond was funny...he was not funny. If I met Raymond on a trip, I would punch him...hard.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
This was a wonderful book that was artfully crafted and spoke to me. You have to read it!
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
I didn't like the novel because it was slow.
The two main characters were Romeo (Raymond) and Juliet...right from the beginning I knew there'd be trouble.
It was not until at least 70 pages in did I understand the reason behind Raymond's trek. Also, every character the two of them met on their trip thought Raymond was funny...he was not funny. If I met Raymond on a trip, I would punch him...hard.
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