The Great Northern Express: A Writer’s Journey Home

By Howard Frank Mosher

(Crown, $25, 256 pages)

Who is this author?

Devotees of fiction set in New England are familiar with bestselling author Howard Frank Mosher, who has written 10 novels, including “A Stranger in the Kingdom,” which won a New England Book Award for fiction and was adapted for a film, as were “Disappearances” and “Where the Rivers Flow North.”

 His “On Kingdom Mountain,” the story of an eccentric, savvy Vermonter who makes exquisite bird carvings, falls in love with a dashing pilot and won’t be moved off her family place, would have made a terrific vehicle for Katherine Hepburn at her prime. Mosher has won a New England Independent Booksellers Association’s President’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts and a Literature Award from  the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  He has also written two memoirs.

What is this book about?

“The Great Northern Express” was inspired by bad news, but it is good news for readers. Just shy of 65, Mosher was diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent 46 radiation treatments. Undaunted, he followed that up with a coast-to-coast “Great American Book Tour” and road trip in his 20-year-old Chevy (which had 280,000 miles on the odometer and was dubbed the “Loser Cruiser”) to explore America while he still could. He encountered an angry moose, homeless hitchhikers, country singers, exotic dancers and would-be writers, among many others, in his travels.

Why you’ll like it:

Mosher has mastered  the art of vivid description and has an unerring eye for the quirkiness of ordinary life. This book can be read as a travelogue, a memoir or a wise analysis of current life in these United States. Its 65 short chapters celebrate such things as America’s independent bookstores (long may they live) and swing back and forth from what Mosher recalls about his past and what he sees – and feels – in the present. Written with humor and sweetness, this is a captivating book.

What others are saying:

Says Publishers Weekly: “Mosher colorfully weaves stories about his teaching in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont with his misadventures in the Loser Cruiser, cheap hotels, and at readings and book signings to create a brilliantly vibrant quilt that covers us with his warmth, humor, and love of discovery, reading, and writing. …With vivacious humor, Mosher carries readers along on this adventure that offers him a chance to gain a fresh perspective on what he loves enough to live for.”

“Rather than presenting a linear career story, he refreshingly alternates chapters between past and present. With equal aplomb, Mosher also looks back at challenges such as moving a piano, raucous motel patrons, rest-stop brawlers, limited audiences that included only the staff that organized the event and being mistaken for homeless….Mosher provides a genial reminder that adventures are possible at any age. One man’s appreciation for curious experiences, portrayed with self-effacing wit; best suited for fans of the author’s work,” says Kirkus Reviews.

“Hilarious, poignant, and honest, this bittersweet memoir is a sheer delight to read,” says Booklist.

When is it available?

The Hartford Public Library expected the book to arrive yesterday.

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