This book is a prime example of why I always stick with a book, even if it starts out slow. This was really dragged on for me during the first 20% or so, but I'm so glad that I kept reading, because the pace soon quickened and I ended up not only learning a lot, but enjoying it quite a bit. This book is really like 2-1/2 stories woven together. The beginning was so hard for me because I was having a hard time keeping track of who was who, and the story jumping back and forth was confusing. Suddenly, though, it all clicked in to place, and I couldn't put it down. I find fairs inherently fascinating, so reading about such a seminal fair was really interesting. I love Ferris Wheels, and to be honest, I had never even wondered who first thought of suspending people in carriages on a movable wheel. I really wanted Burnham and the fair to be a success, and despite the tragic end of the expedition, I feel like in the end, he was. The story of Holmes' many lives and lies was equally intriguing, and it is amazing to think how close he came to never being caught. The thought that someone could actually be so cruel and heartless is almost unbelievable, but there it is. It is true, which makes it even more sad.
Before reading this book, I was aware it was about Puritans, but for some reason, I had in my head that it was going to be about the Pilgrims somehow. Sarah Vowell would not be surprised to hear this, I am sure, because she is too well aware that most of our popular knowledge about the Puritans comes from elementary school plays and, brief references in TV shows and movies. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to find a detailed and full history of the group of non-separatist Pilgrims that traveled to the New World starting in 1630 with the Massachusetts Bay Company. This group eventually founded Boston, Salem, and much of Rhode Island. This group is influential not only in the history of politics, but also in religion. These historical characters came to life, and through their journals, letters, and published works, we truly get to know what they thought and felt living in such a new and drastically different land. I think my favorite person was Anne Hutchinson, whose radical religious views got her exiled from Boston, but who would actually fit in quite well with today's evangelical Christians. It's a testament to her strength of will and spirit that she didn't bow to pressure to stay silent about her beliefs, but always spoke her mind. Vowell has a wry sense of humor, and at every point, shines a light on the past to show it's relevance to our current events. Overall, this one was quite enjoyable to read.
In the week after returning from Israel but before leaving for Disney-Wedding-Con in Anaheim/San Diego last month, I finally got this book from the library. Try as I might, I just didn't have time to finish it, and so had to return it to the library only half read. It has been intriguing so far, though, so I definitely wanted to finish it sooner rather than later. The hold line at the library is still super long, though, and I didn't want to buy it, so this week I have retreated to my old stand-by - sit at the book store for hours and read there. :) I made it through about 100 pages this week, and I will hopefully finish up the last 200 pages next week!
This coming week, I will be focusing on finishing up the books I am currently reading, as this month and the summer challenge are quickly coming to a close. Hopefully I will be able to finish both The Lonely Polygamist and Lamb. But also, Mockingjay FINALLY comes out on Tuesday, and I've had it pre-ordered for months! So I also plan on re-reading Catching Fire (the 2nd book in the Hunger Games trilogy), and then diving right in to Mockingjay! I'm so excited! :D Hope you all have a great reading week!