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America by Land
     

America by Land

by Robert Olmstead
 

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Raymond Redfield rides his Harley west toward New Mexico and his cousin Juliet, who has just given up her baby for adoption. Together they set out on an odyssey to locate and reclaim the child. Robert Olmstead's road novel unwinds its compelling story of love and discovery through the streets and canyons, plains and deserts of interstate America.

Overview

Raymond Redfield rides his Harley west toward New Mexico and his cousin Juliet, who has just given up her baby for adoption. Together they set out on an odyssey to locate and reclaim the child. Robert Olmstead's road novel unwinds its compelling story of love and discovery through the streets and canyons, plains and deserts of interstate America.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A compelling novel of eroticism and landscape, compulsively readable. A book to be cherished for the strength and evocative powers of its prose."-San Francisco Chronicle

"The best Olmstead yet, a classic American road story. Read it. "-Jay McInerney

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With terse and arresting images and lyricism as deft as Michael Ondaatje's, this diverting road book unwinds its simple story of love and discovery through the dams and canyons, plains and deserts of interstate-America. Raymond Romeo Redfield rides his Harley west on hush money from a near-fatal mining accident that has left him with six months' wages and busted ribs. He's riding to his cousin Juliet, who is alone in New Mexico. She has just given up her baby for adoption, and when Redfield arrives, it's clear that her wounds equal his. Redfield's near-manic energy fuels nonstop comebacks that make strangers laugh and think him a young genius. (A state trooper asks, ``You ever been in any trouble?'' and Redfield says, ``Yeah, I used to wet the bed.'') Setting off together on his bike, Juliet and Redfield follow a route his father once took, checking their progress against snapshots from 1948. As they unravel the country, the fragile taboo of first-cousin incest adds a courtly languour to their inevitable romance. Olmstead ( Soft Water ) captures the intensity of their love and its brooding youthfulness, while the view through their motorcycle helmets gives the reader something delicious, absurd or tragic to stop for on every page. The characters they meet speak with honed and individual voices, and every locale is drawn with exactly the kind of quirky detail you'd imagine a brilliant 23-year-old and his love would notice. The surprise of the conclusion is wholly incidental to the pleasures of the writing. Redfield has the same unpredictable sexiness on the page that James Dean had on screen. (Apr.)
Library Journal
When Redfield, an aimless, smart-talking college dropout, embarks on a motorcycle odyssey from the East Coast to New Mexico to help his cousin, Juliet, he ultimately discovers what he's looking for. This fourth book by Olmstead (following A Trail of Heart's Blood Wherever We Go , LJ 5/15/90; Soft Water , LJ 3/15/88; and River Dogs , LJ 5/1/87) is a spare, Hemingwayesque slice of the lives of two troubled people. It's reminiscent of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance , but with an edge. As Redfield travels by motorcycle, first alone, then with Juliet, the reader encounters colorful characters with names like Old Black Dog, Ostrich Lady, and Asphalt, each with his or her own story. Juliet and Redfield enjoy each other's company, then travel on to their ultimate liberating goal: to find Juliet's child and reclaim it, thereby reclaiming their own lives. Recommended for general fiction collections.-- Rosellen Brewer, Monterey Bay Area Cooperative Lib. System, Cal.
Kirkus Reviews
Olmstead strikes out for parts unknown in his third novel: a road story that carries us deep into the American Southwest and far beyond the velleities of his previous work (A Trail of Heart's Blood Wherever We Go, 1990; Soft Water, 1988). This time around we're introduced to Raymond Romeo Redfield, a college dropout and angry young man who's biking across the country with all the usual confusions. "I was thinking," he declares, "if I could move fast enough, nothing could ever catch up with me, not even time." Actually, he sets out to meet up with his cousin Juliet, now nursing her grief in New Mexico after the successful birth (and subsequent adoption) of her baby girl, and to retrace the steps of a similar wanderjahr taken by his father some four decades back. Redfield's consuming anger at his father's adult compromises does nothing to stultify his maniacal sense of humor, any more than his fractured ribs get in the way of a happy consummation of his affair with Juliet—but these liabilities do provide some background tension and raise the moral stakes of the story. The novel forsakes none of the backwoods squalor that Olmstead has traded on in the past, but it manages all the same to unfold the inner lives of Redfield and Juliet with a quiet intimacy that's remarkable—and remarkably sincere. Up to now, Olmstead has displayed an unfortunate submission to the prevailing taste for lurid understatement: the obvious (and ultimately rather patronizing) attempt to engage the reader's attention by means of a narrative that does not respond in any plausible way to the events that it describes. Here, he seems to have placed more trust in his innate sense of propriety andequilibrium, and the result is far richer and more assured. Very fine and real: a moving portrait of the heart's own sojourn.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780805051193
Publisher:
Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
08/15/1997
Edition description:
REV
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.28(h) x 0.71(d)

What People are Saying About This

Jay McInerney
The best Olmstead yet, a classic American road story with a smart, ruefully funny protagonist on a Harley and a complicated, compelling heroine. Read it.

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