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Life on the Mississippi

An Epic American Adventure

LIST PRICE $33.99

The eagerly awaited return of master American storyteller Rinker Buck, whose last book The Oregon Trail was a triumphant New York Times bestseller, Life on the Mississippi is another epic, enchanting blend of history and adventure in which Buck builds an authentic wooden flatboat from the early 1800s and pilots it down the Mississippi River, illuminating the forgotten past of the river and its grand “flatboat era” that dramatically expanded the country in the decades before Western expansion.

In 2015, readers, critics, and booksellers across the country fell in love with a singular American voice: Rinker Buck, whose infectious curiosity about history launched him across the West in a covered wagon and propelled his book, The Oregon Trail, to ten weeks on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list. The Oregon Trail was hailed as a “real nonfiction thriller” (The New York Review of Books), a “quintessential American story” (The Christian Science Monitor) that “so ensnares the emotions it becomes a tear-jerker at its close” (Star Tribune, Minneapolis) and “will leave you daydreaming and hungry to see this land” (The Boston Globe). The New York Times’s Dwight Garner said that Buck’s voice “is alert and unpretentious in a manner that put me in mind of Bill Bryson’s comic tone in A Walk in the Woods.”

Now, in his highly anticipated new book, Life on the Mississippi, Buck chronicles his latest grand adventure: building an authentic wooden flatboat from the bygone flatboat era of the early 1800s and journeying down the Mississippi River to New Orleans.

A modern-day Huck Finn, Buck casts off down the river accompanied by an eccentric crew of daring shipmates. Over the course of his voyage, Buck steers his fragile wooden craft through narrow channels dominated by massive cargo barges, rescues his first mate gone overboard, sails blindly through fog, clashes with overzealous period reenactors, and much more. In addition, he charts his own geographical and emotional journey while also delivering a richly satisfying work of history that brings to life a lost era. The role of the flatboat in our country’s evolution is far more significant than most Americans realize. Decades before we struck out for the Western territories, we migrated Southwest en masse. Between 1800 and 1840, millions of farmers, merchants, and hopeful pioneers embarked from states like Pennsylvania and Virginia on wooden flatboats headed beyond the Appalachians to places like Kentucky, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The mighty river currents carried waves of settlers and tons of cargo from farms to ports, populating new territories and revolutionizing the American landscape. As Buck points out, the inland rivers of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys were in fact America’s first western frontier.

With a rare and captivating narrative power that blends armchair adventure with absorbing untold history, Life on the Mississippi is a muscular and majestic feat of storytelling from a writer who may be the closest to Twain that we have today.

Rinker Buck began his career in journalism at the Berkshire Eagle and was a longtime staff writer for the Hartford Courant. He has written for Vanity FairNew YorkLife, and many other publications, and his work has won the PEN New England Award, the Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Writing Award, and the Society of Professional Journalists Sigma Delta Chi Award. He is the New York Times bestselling author of The Oregon TrailFlight of Passage, and First Job. He lives in Tennessee.

PRAISE FOR THE OREGON TRAIL:

“An incredible true story . . . Weaving a tale somewhere between a travelogue and a history lesson, Buck traces the iconic path literally and figuratively as he re-creates the great migration with his brother and a Jack Russell terrier.”
Entertainment Weekly

“Excellent . . . An amazing cross-country journey . . . Rinker and Nick Buck’s conquest of the trail, the achievement of a lifetime, makes for a real nonfiction thriller, an account that keeps you turning the pages because you can’t conceive how the protagonists will make it through the enormous real-life obstacles confronting them.”
—Ian Frazier, The New York Review of Books

“Enchanting . . . Interspersed with the story of his westward journey, Mr. Buck entertains and enlightens with discourses on American history and culture. . . . He has delivered us a book filled with so much love—for mules, for his brother, for America itself. . . . Long before Oregon, Rinker Buck has convinced us that the best way to see America is from the seat of a covered wagon.”
—Gregory Crouch, The Wall Street Journal

“Absorbing . . . The many layers in The Oregon Trail are linked by Mr. Buck’s voice, which is alert and unpretentious in a manner that put me in mind of Bill Bryson’s comic tone in A Walk in the Woods. . . . He’s good company on the page, and you root for him. . . . He’s particularly winning on how, as he puts it, ‘the vaudeville of American life was acted out on the trail.’ . . . This shaggy pilgrimage describes a form of happiness sought, and happiness found.”
—Dwight Garner, The New York Times

“Awe-inspiring . . . Charming, big-hearted, impassioned, and a lot of fun to read . . . If Buck doesn’t quite make you want to hitch up your own wagon, his rapturous account will still leave you daydreaming and hungry to see this land.”
The Boston Globe

“A remarkable saga . . . Thanks to Buck’s utterly engaging voice, infectious enthusiasm, unquenchable curiosity, dogged determination and especially his ability to convey the interaction of two brothers (and three mules), all of whom pull together despite their strong but profoundly different personalities, the saga becomes nothing short of irresistible. . . . This tale of brotherhood, persistence and daring so snares the emotions that it becomes a tear-jerker at its close.”
—Rosemary Herbert, Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A laugh-out-loud masterpiece . . . Alternately harrowing and exhilarating . . . The book is an unremitting delight.”
Willamette Week

More books from this author: Rinker Buck