The first great advantage of this book is that it gives the reader the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the presence of an enormously complicated, interesting and humorous character , Mark Twain. A second advantage is that it does this by giving a detailed description of the time and world in which Twain lived in. It takes the reader through the wandering Twain's adventures in America , and as an innocent abroad. It relates turning point moments in Twain's life in a dramatic way, as for instance his meeting with William Dean Howells in the Atlantic's office in Boston, a meeting which not only open a forty- one year old friendship but pave the way for Twain's acceptance by the New England Literary culture which dominated American Letters.
Powers also gives insight into the unique genius of Twain. There is a wonderful paragraph in which he describes the child's gift for hearing and seeing in unusual ways. And how this gift would totally transform American literature bringing into the colloquial voices of so many different American worlds.
There have been other very good biographies of Mark Twain but this one in its most detailed reading of the life is a real contribution to our understanding of America's greatest comic writer.