Barbara Bryant's Reviews > I'm a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on Returning to America After 20 Years Away

I'm a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson
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May 01, 11

Read in April, 2011

I feel a little mean as I give this two stars, but I like Bill Bryson a lot and just can't rate this at the same level as some of his others.

It's a perfectly fun book of columns Bryson wrote for two years for a British newspaper magazine supplement, after returning to America from Britain with his British wife and their children. He settled in New Hampshire, and began to write (for a British audience, remember) of the rediscovery of his homeland, many years after he had left it.

We read of his awe and dismay as he discovers the modern American conveniences that have been completely unknown to him in Britain, even as his wife and children cheerfully embrace them. We enjoy with him the pleasures of life in a lovely New England college town, where tradition, friendliness, unlocked doors and town parades fill him with patriotic euphoria, and laugh also at some of the foibles of the people and places he visits while pursuing his work. (I realized often that I was mostly glad I lived here as he described what I saw as some of the privations of his English life.)

My favorite segments, which I would rate higher if I could, are his musings on his own ineptitude in handling Life, with his inability to be suave, travel-savvy and technologically adept. Here is where I laughed out loud a lot, and kept smiling into the next story. When he flirts lightly with an attractive woman on an airplane, only to discover when he goes to the plane's bathroom that he has covered his face with ball point pen markings, I remember a few times I have done something similar and realize I could not describe it so entertainingly.

Part of the problem with a book like this is that it wasn't meant to be read as a book, but rather as a weekly offering that could be thoroughly digested before moving on. The columns are short and it is easy to read quite a few in a row without really wanting to jump around in subjects as you then find yourself doing.

I actually enjoyed the book a lot, but sometimes the cuteness wore me down a bit, and I don't think it is one of his best titles. It's something I might pick up again to find my favorite episodes but it is not a purchase for me. I will happily choose another Bryson, though, anytime.
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