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

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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: #1,331,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Connie G Scammell 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 Bob Nolin on February 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Disclosure: I am a fan of Mr. Mosher's books, especially the novelette "Where the Rivers Run North." This makes it hard to review this new book objectively. With that in mind, here goes.

"The Great Northern Express" is sixty-five short chapters, half discussing the early days of his arrival in northern Vermont with his new bride, the other half vignettes of his 190-plus bookstore tour across America. This epic roadtrip was occasioned by Mosher's recent encounter with prostate cancer, which may or may not have been cured by radiation treatments prior to his trip. Despite his age (65), the age of his car, the Loser Cruiser (20), and the advice of his doctor (REST), Mosher decides to head out to promote his latest book (which is never named, but was probably "On Kingdom Mountain"). Early in the introduction, he states that the book is a "narrative of one writer's search, in his life and work, for the true meaning of home." One can see this somewhat in the passages about his early days in Vermont. After a childhood of moving to a new town every year, Mosher seems, even after 40 years, to be wondering if his adopted home is truly Home, or just the latest stop on the journey. His brush with cancer and death no doubt played a big part in his deciding to go on a retreat to assess the direction of his work. As a fan of his work, it was fascinating to read about the real-life sources of some of his characters, to hear his thoughts about the actual Kingdom country and its people. These sections (about half the book) were deep and satisfying, with some rather comic elements to spice things up. Some of the darker side of life in the far north is revealed, too.

The road trip chapters were light and not very interesting.
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