I Should Be Extremely Happy In Your Company
by Brian Hall
Book Jacket
Kirkus Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780670031894 Travel writer and novelist Hall (The Saskiad, 1997, etc.) expertly deploys his combined skills in a long look at the long travels of Lewis and Clark. Carefully offloading two centuries of cultural baggage, including the great weights of Thomas Jefferson and Sacajawea, Hall brings the young republic's great explorers and their co-travelers to unsettled life. Greatest attention goes to Jefferson's prickly young secretary Meriwether Lewis. Plagued by depression and by his self-centered, frequently widowed mother, Lewis would be no one's choice today to lead a vital national mission. The better-balanced, more cheerful William Clark, soldier brother to a revolutionary hero, would seem to have had the righter stuff. But it was Virginia-born Lewis who was at the president's elbow when Jefferson shelled out for a quarter of a continent. And Lewis was not your usual clerk. Fiercely intelligent, he had absorbed as much as possible from an abbreviated education, and he had exercised his abilities like a soldier. Clark was, indeed, Lewis's old army buddy, and it was that friendship that brought the frontier Louisvillian to his great adventure and national fame. Unraveling his narrative from varied viewpoints-those of the two young explorers, the teenaged Shoshone woman who accompanied them, her aging French Canadian husband/owner, and, ultimately, Clark's long-suffering slave, York-Hall draws on reams of historic documents and makes wonderfully real both the rackety, rash quality of the president's personal project and the unsettled inner lives of the explorers. Dragging a presidentially designed folding iron, swapping cheap trinkets with constantly changing Indian tribes, eating dogs, navigating by the heavens, the casual directions of the natives, and their own best guesses, journalizing in their different styles, the two captains do what should have been impossible: winning national fame and national jobs. Clark's natural buoyancy supports him to the end; Lewis's personal demons drag him to an early death. Hall takes the greatest risks with Sacajawea, realizing her thoughts in dense passages that, even so, when carefully followed, make the neolithic Shoshone world palpable. Not easy, but a serious, ambitious, complex and greatly worthwhile book. Just like the trip.
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