I bought this book not really knowing what it was about ~ I've read other books by Horwitz before and enjoyed them, so I'm slowly making my way through his backlist. I like his approach to nonfiction and his writing style, and this book was no different.
While visiting Plymouth Rock, Horwitz was surprised to learn his own limited knowledge of America's founding history was inaccurate and thus decided to set the record straight, so he starts with the early explorations by Vikings to what is present-day Canada and follows through the historical "discovery" of the New World. I relearned a lot of American history I had forgotten (I grew up in Virginia, so I'm probably more familiar with the Virginia settlers than most people), but I also learned a lot I didn't know, including the early conquests by the Spanish which we had glossed over in history class. Funny how we jumped from 1492 to 1607 without much inbetween.
In Horwitz's patented style, he relays the history he uncovers in layman's terms, presenting it in a way that's easy to digest and interesting, particularly for people who might not consider themselves intrigued by the historical aspects of the research. His style is open and conversational, and not heavy-handed in the least. If more young kids had history teachers like him, we'd all know a lot more about how the New World was settled than we do, that's for sure!
Once the history lesson is over, Horwitz takes the reader on a modern day pilgrimage to follow in the footsteps of those who came before. Here is where the book really gets interesting. We're alongside Horwitz as he travels to the very same locations today that we just read about hundreds of years in the past ~ we see through his eyes the strip malls and paved roads that cover over the once wild lands the conquistadors and colonists weathered to survive all those years ago. Through local historians and residents alike, Horwitz traces descendants of both the Europeans who settled the land and the Indians who were here before the white man arrived, trying to separate historical fact from myth, legend from truth, to show how conflicts in the past continue to resonate in our communities today.
His travels help make the history come alive. This book is a must read for history buffs and fans of early America, particularly those interested in pre-Colonial times or early settler/Indian relations. I can't recommend it enough.