America Unchained review

I bought this book as holiday reading, expecting a humorous travel book, and though the humour is there, it proved to be more of a straight tale - but was none the worse for that. After suffering a comedy tour staying in bland chain hotels, Dave Gorman decided to try to cross America from coast to coast without giving any money to 'the Man', avoiding chain hotels, chain restaurants and chain filling stations.

As is often the case with these kind of books, the car itself (regularly breaking down) is one of the main characters, as is the video cameraperson who is Dave's companion as he attempts this remarkable feat. Despite a total disaster part way through (which reduces the vegetarian author to eating three burger meals, one each from McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy's in protest, with dire consequences) the feeling is mostly upbeat, and inevitably provides a fascinating exploration of small town America: charming and wonderful at its best, unfriendly to strangers and downright scary at its worst.

While I would have appreciated a touch more humour, as Bill Bryson managed so well in his early travel books, Gorman kept my interest throughout and made his remarkable road trip well worth the read. If you'd like to find out more about small-town America (and how it is disappearing) from a British viewpoint, it's highly recommended.

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