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The Great Northern Express: A Writer's Journey Home Hardcover – March 6, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (March 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307450694
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307450692
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #245,808 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Praise for The Great Northern Express

Like Howard Frank Mosher, I am a novelist and a cancer survivor, and I live in northern New England.  The journey Mr. Mosher describes is very familiar to me—made more poignant by the faultless details and inimitable characters the author encounters on his odyssey of self-discovery.  Mosher has always been a gifted storyteller; this time, there is an added euphoria in his storytelling—borne by the hope he and I share: for now, we have dodged a bullet that thirty thousand American men don’t dodge every year.”
—John Irving

"Mosher colorfully weaves create a brilliantly vibrant quilt that covers us with his warmth, humor, and love of discovery, reading, and writing."
Publishers Weekly (starred review) 

"Whimsical....Mosher provides a genial reminder that adventures are possible at any age."
Kirkus Reviews

“Hilarious, poignant, and honest, this bittersweet memoir is a sheer delight to read.”

About the Author

HOWARD FRANK MOSHER is the author of ten novels and two memoirs. He was honored with the New England Independent Booksellers Association's President's Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts and is the recipient of the Literature Award bestowed by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His novel A Stranger in the Kingdom won the New England Book Award for fiction and was later made into a movie, as were his novels Disappearances and Where the Rivers Flow North.

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Customer Reviews

This book is an "easy read" in that it moves along nicely.
Midwest Yogini
It's funny, interesting, introspective, and instructive by turns; obviously Mosher can tell stories, as he sets scenes with what seems like effortless ease.
Barb Caffrey
This was an enjoyable read and I would recommend it for those who love book stores, travel books, and memoirs.
Angela Reads

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By CGScammell TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I can't think of too many--if any--people who can write a heart-touching, witty little memoir like this one after being told that they have cancer. But Howard Mosher did just that. At age 64 he realized the time was now to do that long dreamed of roadtrip across America, the one he never did years ago with his Uncle Reg because he had just taken on a teaching job in Vermont. Fast forward 50 years and the author is playing catch-up, but this time without the uncle and instead with a hitchhiking Jesus he meets in Texas.

This is a fast read. It's fast because it captivates the heart right away, is only 246 pages long, and broken into short chapters. There is just the right amount of wit and self-reflection to keep the mood upbeat without dwelling too much on self-pity or depression. Mosher even says himself that writing, humor, family/friends, positivity, and driving were his therapy.

This is 70% memoir, 30% travelogue. There are short reflective parts to this little travel narrative, of the times he met his wife so long ago and they began their teaching careers in a small town, to his first days on the job as a teacher, his alcoholic, womanizing principal he refers to as "Prof," former bad boy students turned good citizens, and friends of his boyhood home in the Catskills that sometimes involved homebrewed moonshine, and old thoughts of family long passed on. In short, he was writing about things that we all some day will reflect upon when we realize our time is running up, and many of these chapters will hit home. What keeps the reader captivated is that this book lacks anger, depression or fear.

But all was not idyllic or pastoral. Mosher himself writes "The abusive sex shows at the fair and the barbaric cockfights. . .
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Format: Hardcover
Several times in the past I have enjoyed Howard Frank Mosher's fiction set in northern Vermont. It might not be serious literature, but neither is it pablum, and it is entertaining. This memoir of sorts, however, is disappointing. While it is mildly entertaining, it is so light and breezy and bland that I doubt that I will remember much about it six months from now.

At age sixty-five, shortly after finishing a radiation treatment program for prostate cancer, Mosher embarked on an extended "Great American Book Tour" to promote his most recently released novel. The tour took him to 190 independent bookstores around the country. He drove himself from city to city and store to store in the Loser Cruiser, a twenty-year-old Chevy Celebrity, and stayed at Motel 6's.

Half of THE GREAT NORTHERN EXPRESS is Mosher's account of his Great American Book Tour. The other half is a memoir of his youth, most of which is about his first year out of college, back in 1964, when he and his new bride took teaching jobs at the local high school in Orleans, Vermont for a combined salary of $8,000. During that year, Mosher became enamored with the tales and characters of the "Northeast Kingdom" (the three northeasternmost counties of Vermont), gradually was persuaded that these were stories and people worth writing about, and finally found the writer's voice to do so himself.

The narrative continually shifts back and forth between these two stories - the Great American Book Tour and Mosher and his wife's first year in the Northeast Kingdom. Both are stories worth telling. My problem is that I don't much care for the way Mosher tells them. He writes the book as if he were on auto-pilot. Too often his relaxed offbeat narrative becomes corny and occasionally it becomes silly.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Petralia VINE VOICE on February 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A wise man once said that it's not where you go that's important. What's important is the journey. So, it is with Howard Mosher. Recovering from prostate surgery, this successful novelist decides to take that big road trip he's always wanted to do. Ever the practical New Englander, he arranges his trip as (1) a book signing tour, (2) a fun road trip, (3) a means to collect material for this memoir.

Alternating between the present and the past, Mosher tells us about all three. I can't say that his life has been exciting. He and his wife are teachers in a small Vermont town. His stories are small town stories. Even his road trip takes us to mainly small town bookstores where he introduces us to unexceptional folks, some real and some imaginary. But, in the hands of a good writer, ordinary does not have to mean uninteresting. And, Mosher is a good writer who knows how to tap the wanderlust in all of us.

It's a fun ride. Worth the trip.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. M. Watkins on February 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This lively, humorous romp takes you on a tour of independent booksellers across the country, while the author has the opportunity to introduce you to some of the colorful characters who have graced his life, and influenced him in numerous ways. Originally conceived with his "Uncle," his father's best friend who had passed away before the journey could be taken together, the author takes the occasion of a fellowship stipend, the publishing of a new book, and the termination of his radiation treatments for cancer to make it happen. He decides to book 100 author appearances at these book stores, despite his energy levels being challenged, and he finds ways to manage his need for rest most of the time.

In his booking of these tour stops, he often spoke with people who were unaware of him as an author, despite having some of his books on their shelves. "Harold who?" they would ask, as he told them what he wanted to do at their store. He took to referring to himself that way in the book. He has great nicknames for many of his imagined companions on his trip, as well!

Never having read a book he has written, I did not know what to expect, but I was very pleasantly surprised! It has been a nice escape from all the challenges of life these days. And learning about these stores, and about their significance in their community, has given me a reason to visit them if ever I should be in the vicinity.

This book is not likely to make headlines anywhere, but it is a delightful diversion. Anyone who enjoys traveling, humor, bookstores and the life of authors will find it a joy to read!
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