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Almost Heaven: Travels Through the Backwoods of America by [Fletcher, Martin]
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Almost Heaven: Travels Through the Backwoods of America Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Length: 320 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Product Description

Review

Surprising, entertaining and original (SUNDAY TIMES)

A gourmet's guide to the boondocks (INDEPENDENT)

Sharply detailed and warmly insightful ... fascinating and consistently enlightening, wonderfully funny and unbelievably true (TIME OUT)

A well-observed, warm-hearted travelogue, with plenty of good humour and a cast of amazing characters (TLS)

Book Description

*A fresh, fast-paced and humorous look at 'hidden' America.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 768 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (24 Oct. 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00F44HWDK
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #430,812 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As Martin Fletcher completes his assignment as The Times’ correspondent in Washington D.C., he takes a well-planned trip through the backwoods of the USA, meeting a series of very unusual characters along the way. His destinations are places that have aroused his curiosity from news items and books during his time of residence “across the pond”.
From descriptions of an island on the East Coast, which is essentially still African, to the white supremacist areas of Idaho, Fletcher’s prose makes the reader feels as if one is also very involved on this unusual voyage of discovery – the contrasts are amazing. Some of the characters we meet along the way are so strange that they appear fictional – it is the unenlightened, small-town attitudes that surprise most, crystallized in attitudes to the government, to other races, and to the death penalty.
The obvious stylistic comparison is with Bill Bryson, but the observation is more acute here, as this vast country is seen from an outsider’s perspective. Once Fletcher stops trying to be poetic, and just records what he sees and experiences in his excellent journalistic style, the book becomes impossible to put down.
A great read for anyone fascinated by this amazing country and its diverse people.
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Format: Paperback
Martin's travels through the backwoods of the US are highly entertaining if, like him, you have a liberal British outsider's perspective. The weird and wonderful characters that he meets in some cases border on the insane, however the US is large and empty enough to accommodate this broad panoply of humanity. You would imagine that many of the characters would have been locked up, or committed year's ago anywhere else. The deep mistrust of government, the attachment to firearms and the fervent religiosity that are so prevalent in the southern states is superbly and dispassionately (in most cases) reported. I finished the book in the same week that the horrific Virginia Tech massacre took place and some of the issues raised (albeit implicitly) in the book, such as gun control, have really resonated as a result.
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Format: Paperback
The cover of the book informs us that 'Almost Heaven' compares with Steinbeck's 'Travels with Charley' and Bill Bryson's 'Lost Continent' - I'm afraid I didn't think that it did!

I found it a relatively interesting and informative read but it was a reporter's book rather than a writer's. It reminded me more (and could well have been the inspiration) of Louis Theroux's "Weird Weekends" TV programmes where he meets survivalists, Nazis etc. The book had none of Steinbeck's insight or Bryson's humour and I felt I knew little more about Martin Fletcher when I'd finished the book than I did before I started.
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Format: Paperback
Keen to read about America in general, I picked up Martin Fletcher's reminiscences of his journey across the backwoods of America and discovered an America I barely knew existed. His writing style really brings the characters and the places to life, and had me searching the Internet for more information, from the African Sapelo Island off the coast of Georgia to the Angolite, the publication produced by inmates in the Angola state penitentiary in Louisiana. This account of rural America is a real eye-opener which manages to dispel some of the more misty-eyed preconceived ideas we may have of an idyllic way of life away from the big city.
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Format: Paperback
I was genuinely hooked by this book. As the author travelled to parts of America that in my innocence I believed existed only in the fertile imaginations of arthouse film makers, I felt I was travelling too. We never knew what we were going to encounter next, for although the author had clearly done some advance planning, the fascinating parts of the adventure were the unexpected encounters, the odd and the wonderful places and people and the pockets of society which one feels belong in another place or age. On one hand the book made me want to visit "the boondocks" as Martin Fletcher has done, but on the other I'm glad he has been there, because I feel I was travelling along in his battered old car right there in the passenger seat! Buy the book and go there too! This is not your typical travelogue!
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Format: Paperback
I bought this book on the strength of 13 very positive Amazon reviews, but I need to record my disagreement with the others so that anyone else browsing can make their own mind up.

The Times correspondent in Washington finishes his stint in the capital and plans a trip to smalltown America, off the beaten track, wanting to portray the population from small towns in contrast to the portrait of urban America we see on TV and films. Starts from Washington and works his way south, then west. In fact the choice is very significant because the author's intent is not to ramble, recording what he sees - rather it is to visit small towns and similar places to see where weird or grizzly events took place. So we get a tour of smalltown America in terms of Klu Klux Klan, bear-hunting, moonshine distilling, a snake-handling church, hill-billy feuds, cock-fighting. No cliché is left unexplored.

After claiming he wanted to get away from the urban view of smalltown America, the author actually chooses his route seemingly based on (urban) newspaper reports of smalltown America as a freak show. He's not in the slightest bit interested in chatting to ordinary people in shops, only in one story he has pre-selected in Washington about the place.

He simply can't escape the journalistic style. It's as though an American came to Britain and reported London in terms of Jack the Ripper or went to Bradford to find the maddest Muslim mosque or Glasgow in terms of the most insane Rangers and Celtic fans. It's not especially informing or entertaining.

What really made me dislike the author, though, was that he provides no evidence at all of any affection for places he visits.
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