A road-trip and self-discovery book with a difference: McIntyre hitchhiked across America with no money, accepting only the "kindness of strangers"--rides, food, shelter, and the occasional beer. This book grew on me with every page, just as McIntyre's feelings for the ordinary people he met grew with every mile. Few books I've read since Studs Terkel
's Hard Times
(a classic oral history about the Great Depression) so effectively captured the day-to-day lives of typical Middle Americans, with all their strengths and weaknesses. Highly Recommended.
From Publishers Weekly
McIntyre decided to confront his fears and the shaky path his life was taking by hitchhiking from San Francisco to Cape Fear, N.C. Along the way, he hoped to find some kindness in the soul of America and vowed to accept no money, only food, shelter and friendship. Rather like William Least-Heat Moon's Blue Highways or Andrei Codrescu's Road Scholar, The Kindness of Strangers is the story of those who help and hinder his journey: the vast array of kind souls and weirdoes, as well as Americana at its best and worst. He stays a night with Edie, who cares for her brain-damaged granddaughter yet happily takes him in. A woman with a tear-shaped tattoo teaches him to feel at home in nature, not to fear the dark woods where he sometimes sleeps. He finds a sense of family on a ranch in South Dakota and meets a couple who give him a tent, although it is one of their most valuable possessions. Not everyone along the way is kind and generous, and there are plenty of strangers with dark ulterior motives. Exhausted and road-weary, he finally arrives in Cape Fear and realizes that it is a misnomer: "The name is as misplaced as my own fears. I see now that I have always been afraid of the wrong things. My great shame is not my fear of death, but my fear of life." McIntyre writes eloquently and rekindles optimism in America's character.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"...a truly heartening book, one that restores one's faith not just in the road, but in the openness and humanity of the people of this country." --Salon.com
"The book sparkles with descriptive gems...Something about McIntyre and his quest makes people want to feed him, pray for him, reveal their innermost torments to him." --Los Angeles Times
"...a captivating first book..." --San Jose Mercury News
"...a book that could provide a dozen scripts for Touched By An Angel..." --USA Today
From the Back Cover
What would you do if you had to journey penniless across America, depending only on the kindness of those you met along the way?
If you're Mike McIntyre, you might meet...A biker-turned-minister who shares faith, food, and self-defense tips with a stranger on the road...A lady firefighter who used to be a man...A lonely woman who offers a place to spend the night, and in the morning feels the loss of yet another man who leaves her...
Stuck in a job he no longer found fulfilling, journalist Mike McIntyre felt his life was quickly passing him by. So one day he hit the road to trek from one end of the country to the other with little more than the clothes on his back and without a single penny in his pocket. Through his travels, he found varying degrees of kindness in strangers from all walks of life--and discovered more about people and values and life on the road in America than he'd ever thought possible. The gifts of food and shelter he received along the way were outweighed only by the touching gifts of the heart--the willingness of many he met to welcome a lonely stranger into their homes...and the discovery that sometimes those who give the most are the ones with the least to spare.
About the Author
Mike McIntyre's newest book is The Distance Between, a travel memoir that covers his three decades of wanderlust. His other travelogues include The Wander Year: One Couple's Journey Around the World and The Kindness of Strangers: Penniless Across America, which was featured on Oprah. He is also the author of the crime novel The Scavenger's Daughter. He has worked as a theater columnist for the Washington Post and a travel columnist for the Los Angeles Times. He lives in San Diego.