Julie Luekenga's Reviews > Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
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May 05, 11

Read in April, 2011

I love this book. Steinbeck writes a non-fiction tale of his cross-country travels with his standard french poodle, Charley. Steinbeck starts out to rediscover America in the early 60's-- just years before his death in 1968. He equips his sturdy pick-up truck with a custom made camper and sets out with his faithful companion. He contrasts the development of urban sprawl (just think if he made that same trip today!) with the America he once knew and describes the boring, endless ribbons of highway that provide speedy travel. Along the way he meets interesting characters and learns a cup of coffee with a splash of something stronger is a great conversation starter.

He starts from the east coast and by the time he hits his childhood home in California, he is growing weary of travel and being away from his wife. It feels like he rushes through descriptions of the last half of the trip; it's easy to sense his impatience with his traveling game. But he does pause in this leg of the journey to describe the racial conflicts taking place in the south. His commentary and observations of this tension provides sobering and historical context for his trip. His descriptions are simple, rich and funny. Charley provides good fodder for canine character development and adds fun to the reading.
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