So when Andrew Carroll set off in search of lost things in American history he found some of each: places that had truly disappeared because no one had remembered to mark or commemorate them, and some that no one wanted to remember even though they were hiding in plain view. While this is no dull history survey or travelogue of boring roadside attractions (far from that!) Carroll does a good job of pausing along his journey and pondering (and asking) why these sites are not honored. As he admits in his planning and in his afterword, both his writing style and planning were somewhat peripatetic, but in this collection it makes sense and adds to the sense of adventure as the reader never knows what may lie around the corner and how it may relate to where we are know, both on the map and in the book.
He begins at the far edge of the map at the most remote island in the Hawaiian chain, which also happens to be the largest privately owned island in the world, and the place where a Japanese pilot crash landed on December 7, 1941--after dropping his bombs on Pearl Harbor. And the place where the island's owners and workers kept the pilot captive--until two workers of Japanese decent helped him escape. The attempt failed, but the behavior of the Japanese workers was cited in later decisions to confiscate Japanese-American property and imprison these citizens on the US mainland. Carroll effortlessly shows us the interest of the event, why it matters, and why we might choose not to commemorate it.
The book is full of connections like this. Carroll organizes his sites into rough groupings (exploring America, exploiting the land, landmark lawsuits, technology and invention, medical cures and malpractices, and burial plots) and connects them within but also across the groups. None of this is boring, in fact it is fun and compelling reading as Carroll weaves together his preparatory research, his onsite adventures, and his own observations and asides into a truly page-turning account. While I am a sucker for this kind of writing, I find it likely that even the least. interested reader would get sucked in just like I did. In fact, this is the kind of writing that if used in the high school or college classroom would make history exciting for students against their own best intentions!
What did you think of this review?