NORTHLAND by Porter Fox
Kirkus Star


A 4,000-Mile Journey Along America's Forgotten Border
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The life and times of America’s other border.

The southern border of the United States gets all the attention, but it’s barely half as long as the northern border; its story is “a tale of early mistakes, and more than two centuries of fixes.” Fox (Deep: The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow, 2013), a Maine native (he now lives in New York) and editor of the travel journal Nowhere, took a coast-to-coast, two-year journey weaving in and out of a boundary that, “on paper, looks like a discarded thread—twisted and kinked in parts, tight as a bowstring in others,” to see it firsthand and to recount its rich history. He didn’t make an itinerary: “I packed a canoe, tent, maps, and books and headed for the line.” He began one chilly October morning in Lubec, America’s easternmost border town near Passamaquoddy Bay. In June 1604, writes the author, Frenchman Samuel de Champlain entered the bay with two large boats and a crew of 150 to begin his own exploring. Throughout, Fox chronicles in detail Champlain’s adventures, good and bad, as well as those of many other explorers and adventurers from the border’s past. This gives the book an added richness, providing helpful historical context to the places the author visits. Early on, Fox’s trip almost ended when he nearly capsized a small outboard boat in high waves in below-freezing Sandy Bay. He recounts that in 1775, the Continental army attempted a doomed invasion of Canada, and in the 1920s and ’30s, a U.S. planning committee even “drew up plans to seize Canada.” In Montreal, Fox hitched a ride on a “moving skyscraper,” the freighter Equinox, as he traversed the Great Lakes. In eastern North Dakota, he got caught up in Indian protests over the oil pipeline.

Richly populated with fascinating northlanders, Native Americans, and many border patrol agents, this is highly entertaining and informative travel literature.

Pub Date: July 3rd, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-393-24885-2
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2018


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