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

55 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (March 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307450694
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307450692
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,536,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Connie 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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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 Dawn Killen-Courtney VINE VOICE on June 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
While this book is deftly and correctly written, as can be expected when done by an English teacher, it did not engage me to any significant depth. Mr. Mosher claims to have found his writing voice when he wrote the line, "My father was a man of indefatigable optimism." Like father, like son. Certainly this is an admirable quality and it stands Mosher in good stead as he sets out on a cross-continental road trip/promotional book signing tour as a tactic in response to the diagnosis and treatment of prostrate cancer. Early on he tells us the book is not intended to be a medical memoir. Prostate cancer is merely the catalyst which Mosher uses to inspire him to begin this "sojourn I fear might be my last." Usually droll, sometimes imaginative, sticking to the map of the formulated road, his story rolls smoothly along and is an amusing and light-hearted entertainment. But his relentlessly sunny disposition seems designed to deliberately deny the slightest eclipse by any solipsistic question concerned with existential doubt or simple shaded fear. Such light washes out any depth of dramatic distinction. As a consequence, despite the soul searching in the face of his impending mortality, there is very little tension in Mosher's quest. Perhaps he really did set out to write a distracting travelogue, but I was hoping for more.

This road journal becomes a hymn of praise to virtually every person Mosher meets or has known. The "young rapscallions" in his classroom are wry and redeemable lads; his beloved wife is a "world class care-giver" to his "wonderful mother", his colorfully rustic neighbors natively noble to the point of being heroic.
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