I love Sarah Vowell's books. She is an absolute master at examining a historical subject, relating it to the world we live in, and inserting her personal foibles to it, all in a narrative that moves so smoothly and quickly that you're sometimes surprised that you've read the whole book at a sitting. That's what she attempts to do here, but she doesn't quite pull it off this time.
Don't misunderstand me; this isn't at all a bad book. In fact, it's fascinating. It is jam-packed with fascinating information about the Massachusetts Puritans and the religious, social, and historical context of their settlement. Vowell weaves comments about her family background, education, travels, and hopes and fears into the narrative, just as she usually does.
When Vowell's writing works best, it's driven by her quirkiness and her ability to veer off on what seems to be a tangent, then bring everything together in the end. She does that here, but just not as well as in her other books. Perhaps the subject just isn't as susceptible to the Vowell treatment as the subjects of her other books.
I actually enjoyed this book, and I recommend it highly. However, it's just not as good as her other books made me expect it to be. Well worth reading, though.