In a roving, digressive memoir, Vogue contributor Sullivan (The Thoreau You Don't Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant, 2009, etc.) traces Revolutionary War history in and around New York and New Jersey.
Looking down from the top of the Empire State Building, the author saw a war landscape he believed to be neglected. Inspired to bring the Revolutionary War history of his hometown into his own present, Sullivan embarked on a long, twisting journey. Though his motives were somewhat muddled from the beginning, his recreational, relaxed plan was to cross the Delaware River, venture into the mountains, and finish the journey by visiting sites and memories inside New York City. Readers are sure to learn plenty from his travels, including little-celebrated battles and long-forgotten soldiers whose stories never made history textbooks. Throughout, the author meanders through his recounting of history, never ignoring a possible detour. In one instance, the fact that a building bearing a Revolutionary War plaque now houses a Trader Joe’s store leads to a footnote about colonists boycotting imported English goods and then ends in an anecdote about the kidnapping of Theo Albrecht, the now-deceased former owner of Trader Joe’s. Much of the book reads like a journal edited to add more information rather than to streamline thoughts. Considering Sullivan’s obvious passion for many of the tangential subjects—associated art and literature, for example—a book of essays might have been a more appropriate project for a general audience.
Tailor-made for trivia lovers and readers who don’t mind the scenic route. Those looking for a more straightforward narrative are likely to be frustrated.