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The Kindness of Strangers: Penniless Across America Paperback – November 1, 1996
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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.
Top customer reviews
His reception in Kentucky was the epitome of Southern hospitality and friendliness, yet he high-tailed it to the coast so fast we wouldn't have been able to lynch him if we wanted to! After months of travel and hardships designed to expose and dispel stereotypes, he fell victim himself to the oldest American stereotype of all - the vicious Southern red-neck.
Oh, he made all kinds of excuses. He was worn out. His girlfriend missed him. His feet hurt. NOBODY was fooled, Bubba!
There is only one way to rectify this insult to the South. You must repeat your journey, starting in Charleston and traveling west. Of course, by the time we've plied you with biscuits and gravy and corn likker, you may not be able to get all the way back home, but you may be like a lot of other folks who visit the South with an open mind. We might not be able to get you to leave!
His voluntary vulnerability leads to an open, intimate book. Many of his benefactors return his trust and open up about their own lives. It's always interesting to meet people with Mike. As readers, we get to know them much better than if Mike were travelling conventionally.
On the other hand: McIntyre doesn't appear to grow or change during or after his trip. He makes a lot of points about how nice other people are to support him during his journey, but has he done anything to pay it forward? Does he pick up hitch-hikers himself, now? Does he start conversations with strangers in public parks? Share his food with them? Or pay it forward in other ways, to any other people in the world who could use his support?
Put another way, I'd like a longer epilogue, with more about how Mike grew as a person. As it is, the book has a flavor of free-riding on the kindness of strangers.
Most recent customer reviews
He meets some interesting people and tells their brief back stories.Read more