Cover Image: Life on the Mississippi

Life on the Mississippi

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Member Reviews

Rinker Buck, in his new book Life on the Mississippi, takes his readers with him as he builds a flatboat modeled after those from the early 1800s. It takes a year, combining care for his aging mother with work on the boat, to build it before he sails the flatboat two thousand miles down the Mississippi to New Orleans. His account of the trip on his boat that he named Patience reminded me of a well-seasoned stew with all the parts that combined to make the whole.

First there are the advice-givers in every place his boat rests that repeat the warning of how dangerous the next phase of his trip will be. The constant prediction is that the Patience is going to be sucked under by whirlpools so strong that all the clothes of its passengers will be torn off. He is warned that the travelers themselves need to be prepared to die and that they need to advise their families of the awaiting doom since they will be identifying the passengers’ unclothed bodies. Everybody had a story of a shipwreck or someone lost on the river.

Other helpers and fellow travelers come and go as Rinker makes his way down the river. His characterizations of his fellow travelers make them characters in his story along with the locals that he meets along the way. His daring shipmates often take charge leaving him time to explore the books that feed his background for his trip and the history of the land as they move along. 

The history of the river, its cities and rural areas, and its people are woven in geographically as the flatboat winds its way down the river, spliced in with whatever current challenge is happening with the Patience. In a spoiler alert, there were some broken ribs but the Patience made it all the way to New Orleans without being sucked under and none of the travelers died.

It would be hard to read this book without thinking of Mark Twain. I found it a very good way to take my mind off the coronavirus that had me laid up while I read it.
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I like travelogues cum pseudo history books like this. 
What I liked about Life on the Mississippi: the flotsam and jetsam of historical details he provided pertaining to the flatboat impact in US history; the vast array of interesting people  he encountered along the way. A personal favorite of line was the wharf geezer; all the minutia he included..
What I didn’t care for: his lecturing on how he perceives US history is being taught; his need to describe his joy of defecating in the open woods.
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A few years ago I read a book by a man called Rinker Buck where he followed the Oregon Trail in a covered wagon.  I enjoyed it very much, and from time to time I wondered what he was up to now.  It seems he has been going down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in a flatboat!  

This is a terrific book, full of hair-raising adventures and very near misses.  I loved it, even while holding my breath, which I did a lot.  Buck writes in a beguiling style, and I hated to put it down.  Now I have to wonder, what next?

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the ARC.
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Rinker Buck's books always give me wanderlust. I enjoyed his book about the Oregon Trail so much that I couldn't wait to read Life on the Mississippi. I also wanted to read it because I lived alongside the Mississippi River for many years and I enjoy reading new things about places I'm familiar with.

If you love history, you'll like his descriptions taken from travelers 'journals of the early 1800's. Much of the history he presents is not the stuff you learned in school. It's woven together with his modern adventure of navigating the most commercially crowded rivers in America. There are mostly good people along the way, some irritating folks, but the majority are like the ones in the song Proud Mary. People on the river are happy to give.

I missed the little dog, Olive Oil, who went on the Oregon Trail trip. If the adventure on the river needed anything, it needed a dog--a dog in a life jacket. By the way, Buck and his crew really needed to take life jackets more seriously.

America is a fascinating country. Life on the Mississippi is a good introduction to the mighty rivers that helped make the US a powerhouse. Thanks to Netgalley for allowing me to read and review an eARC of Life on the Mississippi.
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Combine adventure and travel with an insatiable interest in history and it will produce Rinker Bunk’s latest book, Life on the Mississippi. 

Rinker Buck has a distaste for boredom and a curiosity about flatboats. The solution, of course, is to help build a flatboat and take it on a journey from the Ohio River to the Mississippi on down to New Orleans. Along the way, we are treated to a cornucopia of history related to the rivers and their contributions to the American economy. Stops along the rivers add local color from the people who call these riverfronts home.

Much of the book consists of Buck’s challenges in navigating these mighty rivers while avoiding the numerous tugs and barges. His exhilaration is palpable, bringing us as close as possible to the feeling of undertaking such a journey ourselves. It is a trip of a lifetime.
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Life on the Mississippi by Rinker Buck was received directly from the publisher and I chose to review it.  Having grown up near the mighty Mississippi River, I was always infatuated with it.  I would watch the barges come and go and back then there were some pleasure craft that would brave the great river. Rinker kind of had the same thoughts so he built and piloted a 'flat" boat 200o miles, from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, down the Ohio to the Mississippi River, camping along the river each night and changing crews every so often.  What Rinker writes about would make any Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn fan (are there any left of those types of fan's?), take notice.  If you, or someone you buy gifts for envisions a life on the Mississippi and likes to learn things about points along the river, certainly give this book a read.

5 Stars
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