British journalist Boggan delivers a “Where’s George?”–inspired debut examining the varied paths paper money can take and the hands it passes through.
Taking a cue from an ill-fated newspaper piece he was assigned by the Guardian, the author decided to follow a $10 bill for 30 days and nights, pushing off in 2010 near Lebanon, Kan. (pop. 218). Unpaid and driven by curiosity alone, the inquisitive author put the ten-spot in the welcoming hands of deer-hunting lodge owner and first-aid responder Rick Chapin, tracking its 3,300-mile journey from the supermarket where the Chapins purchased lunch. Each consumer, in turn, spent the money and told Boggan their story, many still at the mercy of a struggling American economy. After contact with Ernie, a lifelong Lebanon farmer who lamented that crop machines have predominantly replaced human effort, the bill passed to a truck stop, where a traveling single mother and her son braved the roads together. The action sputters some in Hot Springs, Ark., but then revives as the money met a Chicago-based post-recession investment banker fearful of his increasingly embittered, angry older clientele and a Vietnam veteran still nursing painful war wounds. These poignant profiles give the book its heart and personify the reality of a collapsed economy. Boggan’s eye-opening journey ends at the expansive home of a former auto maintenance welder in Detroit who remains optimistic about the future of the American automobile industry.
A fun, multifaceted travelogue.