Monday, July 28, 2014

Here is Where by Andrew Carroll

If you didn't know that Edwin Booth saved the life of Robert Todd Lincoln, months before his brother assassinated President Lincoln, you aren't alone.  I had no clue, and that's the point of this book.  The author, Andrew Carroll, who had files upon files of little know historical oddities, decided to travel the United States, visiting the sites of pivotal points in American history, that most of us have forgotten about.  And forgotten is probably not the right word, let's just say this book is full of events and people that most of us never heard about, though we should have.

He had a few self imposed criteria. They had to be sites that were nationally important, not just some fun local event that didn't have that much of an impact, outside of the neighborhood it took place in.  But most importantly, they had to be unmarked, which most of the time, meant they were forgotten.

But this isn't just a book full of unconnected events and the personalities involved, instead its a travelogue that celebrates this country's past, and honors those that are trying to preserve it.  The author isn't just slapping down some dates and names, he's letting us in on the journey, allowing us to share in the discovery, to revel in our collective history.  Each trip is a separate journey, and we are right there with him, as he visits the sites and talks to the locals, gleaning information from everyone he meets.  You can feel the reverence and even the awe that he feels at times, being on location, where those we should honor, gave up their lives or fulfilled a life time of accomplishments.

He starts us off in Hawaii, not the most logical choice, nor his first choice.  Rather he is forced to accommodate his journey, to meet the demands of where he is going.  And it's with Hawaii that my studying began.  I was unaware of how a kamikaze pilot crash landed on the small island of Niihau.  Nor did I know of his capture by the locals, and how some trusted members of the community, who happened to be of Japanese heritage, tried to help him in escaping.  It's that incident that helped cement the distrust of Japanese Americans, and helped to land them in internment camps for the remainder of World War II.

What follows is a state by state tour, exploring other such events. But he doesn't go off willy nilly, or even follow in a way that makes the most geographical sense.  Instead he breaks the stops down into categories, using these events and places to explore broader themes running throughout our history.  He visits those who are trying to figure out who was here before us.  He delves into the darker side of expansion, discovery and growth.  He visits the homes of men and women who pushed our country forward through innovation and science.  He even touches upon the future, how our past teaches us about what is to come, and how there are those who are trying to preserve it for those generations to come.

And just to put out there one random fact that I never knew, the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, started in Haskell County, KS.  I live in Kansas, but haven't been into the Western part of the state, I always knew that I never wanted to take a trip to Sublette.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books, for this review.


Unknown said...

This sounds right up my alley! It would also be a good resource for my homeschooled kids. Thanks for the terrific review.

bermudaonion said...

That sounds fascinating. I love books like that and then drive everyone crazy with the things I learn!

JaneGS said...

What an interesting premise and what trove of great info.

I can think of several people who I should get this for and then borrow it back from!

Michelle Stockard Miller said...

This sounds like a good one. You know how I love history. I will have to put it on my wishlist.

Fantastic review, as always. :)