Customer Reviews: The Kindness of Strangers: Penniless Across America
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on September 19, 2001
I have purchased numerous copies of this book to give to friends. After recently rediscovering book and reading for 5th time I was checking amazon to see if Mike McIntyre has any other titles. I felt compeled to write a review. In light of the recent World Trade center attack I really need something that confirmed my belief that good people are all around us. It really lifted me out of my gloom. A++++
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on June 12, 2000
This book reminds me a little of Scott Savage's book (A Plain Life: Walking My Belief), although the author is not a Quaker. Reading one chapter in another book was enough to draw me to this title.
At 37, Mike McIntyre was an established journalist, with a good job in San Francisco, a girlfriend, a nice apartment. His job enabled him to travel all over the world, but he felt moved to leave it all behind, and travel by the grace of others from the West Coast to Cape Fear, North Carolina. He feels he's a coward, that he's afraid to take a gamble with anything...neither of these being words that describe Quakers. But his feeling that an inner voice is telling him to do this, and his conviction to go ahead despite less than encouraging words from his family ("you'll get raped," his own grandmother tells him) are, to me, a spiritual calling. He says he will not take money, not even if he finds it on the road in front of him. He sets out, wary but determined to go. Like Scott Savage's need to turn over his already expired driver's license, McIntrye has picked his destination as a symbolic gesture. "If I make it to Cape Hope," he says, "it will be as a different man from the one who starts the journey. I am afraid."
Right out the door, he finds himself a fill-in guest house on a talk show ("Life in the Country") on a local radio station. He isn't alone as a guest - his new partner is a tall, blond with red lipstick and high heels, a firefighter named Diana, who used to be named Dennis. The book is full of strange encounters, and is an interesting read, to put it mildly.
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on April 3, 2012
McIntyre sets out from California to see if he can get all the way across the country without touching money, relying only on average Americans for shelter and food. It's interesting to note that this was not just a journey of self-discovery; the event was undertaken with the book in mind, which I felt detracted a bit from the actual experience.

If this book can boast anything it is the clear and unadorned view of America from the road. There are no car chases, no big reveals, and no hidden agendas. McIntyre didn't dress it up with rhetoric, religious or political, he acted as the journalist that he is and reported what he saw; average people living their lives who took a few minutes or hours to help another person.

Funny at times and heartbreaking at others, this was a well written and fascinating story.
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on November 23, 1999
I was in a trance from page one right through the epilogue. The author had the guts to do what so many of us are terrified of doing--to leave our lives for a couple of months, to step away and challenge our biggest fears. He describes his experience in a straightforward, no-punches-pulled manner that puts the reader right into his shoes. The reader sees "the real America"--a believable America, sees Life sliced right open, sees himself or herself vicariously exposed. The book shows heart, humor, whimsy, commitment, strength, vulnerability. A moving tale. A gift. I'd give it six stars if I could.
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on July 9, 2012
I picked up this book as a freebie off Amazon.

When I started reading this book I really didn't know what to expect. Free books always seem to be so hit or miss. The premise of the book reminded me a lot of [book:Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America|1869], a social experiment book that I absolutely loved. I think I may have hyped myself on the book too much because I had read Nickel and Dimed previously.

The book follows a young journalist as he packs up his things and heads across the country without a penny on him. No credit card, no money, no food. He crosses the country by getting rides, food, and shelter from strangers and never accepting a penny from anyone. How far will he make it? And will he survive?

Sound fascinating, right? It was, until about Montana. I felt after a while the story became a bit repetitive. I never truly connected with any of the people that the author described. There were touching stories of the down trodden, but for some reason I never felt myself actually feeling anything for these characters. I don't know if it was the writing style or the narration, but I just couldn't get into the story the way I wanted to. My biggest disappointment was the lack of conclusion and lesson learned at the end. It was just kind of over. I definitely applaud Mike McIntyre for taking this journey as it would never be something I could do. How do you put your life in the hands of strangers? I just wanted a bit more from the book in terms of how Mike felt on the journey or how he reacted to the people he came across. Something that felt a bit more real instead of a list of life stories.
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on March 16, 2012
I myself couldnt put it down I love to travel the USA & found it very interesting. Not only did he encounter kindness he ran into some not so nice encounters too. Sadly ignorance still exsists in this day & time. I read this in 2 day's, I loved this book.
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on January 29, 2012
I couldn't put this book down and finished it in one day. It is the most uplifing, phenominal book I have ever read. I'm only sorry that it's over. I learned so much about myself from reading this book. I am so grateful to Mike for having the courage to bare his soul and relate the experiences of his journey. This book has renewed my faith in the human race. All you see and hear is bad news today. I feel that I've lived through the best years of America and hold much fear for my children's futures. After reading this book I know, even 20 years later, there is more good than bad out there. I feel like I've taken a spiritual journey today. This book will always be a part of me now, the people in it and the author have really touched me. Don't pass this one up - you'll miss out on something really beautiful.
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VINE VOICEon February 21, 2011
What an intriguing book and an intriguing idea. Not to mention a little nuts and a lot brave. I'm not an Oprah fan, but apparently the author went on her show about this book and his journey several years ago. I must admit that I almost didn't read it because I figured it would be too much of that "finding yourself" stuff that just drives me insane.

Instead... well, it's kind of sad. I can tell you with almost 300% certainty that I would not pick up a hitchhiker. Ever. Maybe it was just the type of people Mike was picked up by or the parts of the country he went through, but some of these people had the saddest stories. I know, it's real life to these folks, but man, it was kind of a downer. However, the good parts, the people that were genuinely good and somewhat normal made me smile.

I'm giving this four stars because it was well written and very interesting. I read it quickly and I enjoyed Mike's ability to let us into his life as well as his journey. I like that he let us know how things ended up after his trip was over. I felt that I got that sense of closure I so badly want with any memoir.

I will also admit that I didn't agree with some of the thing he said. He mentioned that he felt like those that had the least to give, gave the most. And while I understand, I think it may have been a bit out of context. He seemed to travel through some depressed areas and I wonder if that didn't contribute to his extrapolation of that. I'm not saying that the poor folks can't be generous, but I'm not sure it was fair to say that had he been hitchhiking through a more affluent area, if he wouldn't have been treated just as well. Maybe not. I don't know.

The pacing was well done on this novel, I didn't feel like he rushed anything or drew it out too far. I look forward to reading more from this author.

I would recommend this book for those that enjoy memoirs or travel stories. Or anyone, really, that is just looking for something a little different.

I'm still not picking up any hitchhikers myself. Ever.
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on November 24, 2001
in light of recent events this book shed a ray of light on the dimming light of humanity in our world. A man leaves home with only identification and hitch hikes across the country relying only on the "kindness of strangers." Although he clearly points out that were he not male and caucasion the outcome could have been much different, the story is still heart warming. I have recommended this to sooo many friends and all have thanked me profusely for helping them search their hearts and souls with out being battered with questions of faith.
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on July 23, 2014
Easy read - I enjoyed it. It is not a book that I feel I would like to call all my friends and tell them they must read it - and it certainly does not hold you riveted to it (i.e. a page turner) but it was a nice break from my usual reading. And the book moves along. The characters he meets along his journey are well introduced and described without going on ad nauseum. His journey moves on each day and so do the places and the people he meets.
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