From Publishers Weekly
SignatureReviewed by Robert Sullivan. As opposed to the Pilgrims, Tony Horwitz begins his journey at Plymouth Rock.Plymouth Rock is a myth. The Pilgrims—who, Horwitz notes, were on a mission that was based less on freedom and the schoolbook history ideas the president of the United States typically mentions when he pardons a turkey at the White House and more on finding a cure for syphilis—may or may not have noticed it. In about 1741, a church elder in Plymouth, winging it, pointed out a boulder that is now more like a not-at-all-precious stone. Three hundred years later, people push and shove to see it in summer tourist season, wearing T-shirts that say, America's Hometown. Which eventually leads an overstimulated (historically speaking) Horwitz to come close to starting a fight in a Plymouth bar. Not to Virginians it isn't, he writes. Or Hispanics or Indians.Forget all the others, his bar mate says loudly. This is the friggin' beginning of America!A Voyage Long and Strange is a history-fueled, self-imposed mission of rediscovery, a travelogue that sets out to explore the surprisingly long list of explorers who discovered America, and what discovered means anyway, starting with the Vikings in A.D. 1000, and ending up on the Mayflower. Horwitz (Blue Latitudes; Confederates in the Attic) even dons conquistador gear, making the narrative surprisingly fun and funny, even as he spends a lot of time describing just how badly Columbus and subsequently the Spanish treated people. (Highpoint: a trip to a Columbus battle site in the Dominican Republic, when Horwitz gets stuck with a nearly inoperable rental car in a Sargasso Sea of traffic.) In the course of tracing the routes of de Soto in, for instance, Tennessee, and the amazing Cabeza de Vaca (Daniel Day Lewis's next role?) in Tucson, Ariz., Horwitz drives off any given road to meet the back-to-the-land husband-and-wife team researching Coronado's expeditions through Mexico; or the Fed Ex guy who may be a link to the lost colonists of the Elizabethan Roanoke expedition.Horwitz can occasionally be smug about what constitutes custom—who's to say that a Canadian tribe's regular karaoke night isn't a community-building exercise as valid as the communal sweat that nearly kills Horwitz early on in his thousands of miles of adventures? But as a character himself, he is friendly and always working hard to listen and bear witness. I hate the whole Thanksgiving story, says a newspaper editor of Spanish descent, a man he meets along the trail of Coronado. We should be eating chili, not turkey. But no one wants to recognize the Spanish because it would mean admitting that they got here decades before the English.Robert Sullivan is the author of Cross Country, How Not to Get Rich and Rats .
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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Horwitz has presented what could be described as a guide for those who are historically ignorant of the "lost century" between the first voyage of Columbus and the establishment of Jamestown in 1607. In this informative, whimsical, and thoroughly enjoyable account, Horwitz describes the exploits of various explorers and conquistadores and enriches the stories with his own experiences when visiting some of the lands they "discovered." Horwitz writes in a breezy, engaging style, so this combination of popular history and travelogue will be ideal for general readers. (Booklist (starred review))
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Irreverent, effervescent… accessible to all ages, hands-on and immensely readable, this book invites readers to search out America 's story for themselves. (Kirkus Reviews)
This readable and vastly entertaining history travelogue is highly recommended. (Library Journal (starred review))
Funny and lively…popular history of the most accessible sort. The stories [Horwitz] tells are full of vivid characters and wild detail. (The New York Times Book Review)
A romp through the sixteenth century…. Horwitz has an ear for a good yarn and an instinct for the trail leading to an entertaining anecdote. (The Washington Post)
Honest, wonderfully written, and heroically researched…. Horwitz unearths whole chapters of American history that have been ignored. (Boston Globe)
Like travel writer Bill Bryson, Horwitz has a penchant for meeting colorful characters and getting himself into bizarre situations. (The Christian Science Monitor)
A sweeping history.… A fascinating story, filled with adventure, Vikings, French voyageurs and those Pilgrims. (The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Horwitz is a very funny writer. (Bloomberg News)
A winning and eye-opening read.… Horwitz's charm, smarts, impeccable research and curiosity make this a voyage worth taking. (The Plain Dealer (Cleveland))
By conveying our past so heartily, handsomely and winsomely, Tony Horwitz does America proud. (The Providence Journal)