LAND OF THE FREE by Woodrow Landfair

LAND OF THE FREE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut novel, a lost man finds that the best way to get to the facts is through fiction.

Following college, Landfair’s unnamed narrator buys a motorcycle that he doesn’t quite know how to ride. He resolves to find himself by exploring his native land and learning about its character. However, neither his years as a benchwarmer for his college baseball team nor his ROTC training adequately prepare him for the harsh realities of life on the road. There are bitter winters to contend with, highway robberies, homelessness and all manner of other hardships. The protagonist’s impetus for his journey seems to stem from unfulfilled dreams of glory, and not from a deep-rooted desire to better understand the U.S. of A. Yet he rarely reexamines his quest, even when adversities mount. Although others might have turned back and sought comfort with friends and family, he presses on, eager for the next adventure. Along the way, he picks up odd jobs—as everything from a community organizer to a building superintendent—to pay his way. But his real payment comes in the form of stories that people tell him. When he crosses paths with Sam, a carnival operator and consummate showman, he begins to nurture his own knack for storytelling. Suddenly, the yarns he spins help him find his way into the good graces of those he meets during his travels. He learns to adapt his own experiences and those of others into larger-than-life legends, and before long, he’s selling out venues as a bona fide American hero—a Daniel Boone, of sorts. Throughout, Landfair’s evocative prose places the reader on the seemingly endless highways and byways of our expansive country (“Cars sped past on either side—blurs of headlights and turn signals”). However, for all of its focus on trying to understand the American spirit, the novel fails to divulge very much information about its main character. Readers know that he’s on a quest, but it remains unclear what his real motivations are. Although readers spend a lot of time with him, they’re always riding shotgun, never really getting a peek below the surface. Intriguingly, the story’s trajectory is eastward, reversing the usual trend for this type of road story, but in the end, its resolution is no surprise.

An uneven road-trip tale that attempts to take readers straight to the heart of America.

Pub Date: June 10th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1940500355
Page count: 204pp
Publisher: Harbinger Book Group
Program: Kirkus Indie
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