A LAND SO FAIR AND BRIGHT by Russ Hofvendahl


The True Story of a Young Man's Adventures across Depression America
Email this review


 Absorbing sequel to Hofvendahl's Hard on the Wind (1983), which detailed the author's sea-faring adventures at age 15. Here, a 16-year-old Hofvendahl undertakes a rigorous odyssey across 1938 America. After jumping ship in British Columbia with a friendly Danish seaman, Hofvendahl endures a hobo journey of riding the rails, hitchhiking, and walking across Canada and the US to N.Y.C. and south to New Orleans, then through the arid Southwest to California. He survives periodic hunger and thirst, heat and cold, loneliness and risk of sudden death while matching wits with Canadian Mounties, brutal armed railroad ``bulls,'' suspicious townspeople, and a few criminal hoboes. Although at times finding temporary work as a farm laborer and as a clothes- presser in N.Y.C., Hofvendahal discovers that when his funds are spent there are always the kindness of strangers and the compassion of women. The Good Samaritan theme recurs throughout as the author in turn helps his fellows in a kind of brotherhood of the road, bonding through sharing at this time when a dollar a day and hot meals were the pay for backbreaking labor. In tight, lean prose, Hofvendahl writes evocatively of courage, hope, and the essential decency of ordinary people: in all, a gritty picture of desperate Depression days when uncounted thousands left home to seek a more hopeful life somewhere beyond the horizon.

Pub Date: Sept. 30th, 1991
ISBN: 0-924486-10-4
Page count: 320pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1991