From Publishers Weekly
The author, a history professor now residing in Nevada, grew up in Camden, Ohio, and left his home town after graduating from high school in 1960. The town's population, hovering around 1000, in most ways typifies small-town America, though every town has unique components. Although Camden doesn't appear in the title or subtitle, this is really a thorough, well-written and minutely detailed account of that one town. Davies presents convincing evidence that the popular image of small-town America as a folk society is based on the isolated communities of the rural 19th century. Wal-Mart may be considered the final blow to mom-and-pop Main Street businesses, but the forces of centralization and urbanization were in place by 1900 and Davies tracks Camden's ebb and flow during the 20th century up to the shell that remains in the late 1990s. Sherwood Anderson was born in Camden, and his depiction of life in the fictitious Winesburg, Ohio, pairs with Sinclair Lewis's portrayal of Main Street, to provide mythical counterpoints to reality. The case study of Camden is 95% of the book, but the town is contrasted with other communities the author visited on a 44-state driving trip. The few small towns that have escaped the stagnation of the majority have done so because of special circumstances, inspired leadership or plain luck. Ultimately, this is a competent book with a sad story but little new to report.
Copyright 1998 Cahners Business Information, Inc.