O America: Discovery in a New Land (Hardcover)

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In 1848 an English physician, Nathaniel Trennant, accepts an offer to serve as doctor on a ship carrying immigrants to America. When arriving in Baltimore, Trennant stumbles onto its slave market and witnesses the horrors of human bondage. One night in a boardinghouse he discovers under his bed a runaway slave. Disturbed and angered by the selling of human lives, he offers to help the young man escape, a criminal action that will put the fugitive slave and physician into flight from both the law and opportunistic slave hunters.

Traveling by foot, horse, stage, canal boat, and steamer, Nathaniel and Nicodemus explore the backcountry and forge a deep friendship as they encounter a host of memorable characters who reveal the nature of the American experiment, one still in its early stages but already under the stress of social injustices and economic inequities.

About the Author

William Least Heat-Moon, pen name of William Trogdon, is of English, Irish, and Osage ancestry. He lives in Missouri on an old tobacco farm he's returning to forest.

His first book, Blue Highways, tells of a 13,000-mile journey around America on back roads. His second work, PrairyErth, is a narrative exploration into a corner of the great tallgrass prairie in eastern Kansas. River-Horse gives an account of his four-month sea-to-sea voyage across the United States on rivers, lakes, and canals. In Roads to Quoz, Heat-Moon sets out for a half-dozen peculiar American destinations that have long intrigued him. Here, There, Elsewhere brings together a collection of his short-form reportage about places around the world. These six major books have never been out of print. His first work of fiction, Celestial Mechanics appeared in 2017.

Praise For…

"It's likely that the greatest American question of our moment is what to make of our history. William Least Heat-Moon offers as vivid, compelling and rich a set of answers as one might possibly hope for–a Tocqueville who can also tell a tale. This is a powerful book."
Bill McKibben, author of Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

"A novel that could be written only by a lifelong, if lately grounded, American traveler, a novel that could only be written by the writer of “Blue Highways.”—Los Angeles Times

“This narrative comprises a good number of power-packed one liners, ringing sentences that capture very sharply, very clearly, something of fundamental importance to life itself.”—Richard L. Wallace, the 20th chief executive officer of the University of Missouri

"Throughout the book, author William Least Heat-Moon's narrator notes the dissonance between what America was purported to be and what America was at the time. When a founding document declares certain truths to be self-evident, and the first truth enumerated is all men are created equal, then one expects no distance between declarations and deeds. However, I regret to say it, given the respect I hold for many American institutions, such an egalitarian assertion is not the case today. Such observations are eerily applicable in the present day. Perhaps even more engaging than the social commentary on colonialism and racism, is the skill with which the author develops a narrative that makes the reader forget that this journal was not written in 1848 but 2019—truly an entertaining and educational read."—Michael A. Middleton, Deputy Chancellor Emeritus and Professor Emeritus of Law, University of Missouri School of Law. Dr. Middleton has also served as Interim President of the University of Missouri, and Interim President of Lincoln University.

"Through many magisterial works of sojourning nonfiction, William Least Heat Moon has embraced and invited us along the byroads and remote precincts of a half-hidden America-that-is. Now, in this masterful turn to historical fiction, Least Heat Moon conjures a distant America-that-was—and compels us to meditate on the differences, if any, between the two."—Ron Powers, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author of No One Cares About Crazy People: My Family and the Heartbreak of Mental Illness in America

"In O America, William Least Heat-Moon, that inveterate traveler, takes us on a captivating fictional journey through a bygone United States that, it turns out, isn't so bygone. His protagonist, a 19th-century British physician who rescues an escaped slave, discovers an America that's a glorious, daring experiment in democracy, and at the same time, a country riven by cruelty and racism. Least Heat-Moon's recreation of Victorian diction and written expression is so sharp you think you're reading the diaries of a real person. O America is a singular achievement."—Philip Caputo, writer and journalist, author of many books, including A Rumor of War and Some Rise by Sin

"Not since Huckleberry and Jim lit out for the territory has there been a pair to explore America so engagingly and humorously."—Mike Mansur, Pulizer Prize-winning writer for the Kansas City Star

"O America draws on Least Heat-Moon’s strengths as a cultural historian, a creator of vivid fictional characters, and—not least—one of the finest travel writers of our time. The stories we are told here are grounded in Least Heat-Moon’s intimate knowledge of America’s geographical and social landscape during the Pre-Civil War period. He reminds us that, over 150 years later, features of this landscape and people’s perspective of human kind remain unchanged."—Molly Tovar, author of A Cup of Cappuccino for the Entrepreneur's Spirit: American Indian Women Entrepreneurs' Edition

“This unlikely reimagining of Huckleberry Finn as an English doctor is a surprising delight.”—Publishers Weekly

“A joyous, rollicking mash-up of Moby-Dick, Huckleberry Finn, and On the Road. . . . This is truly a great American novel and a soulful gift to humanity and the earth we inhabit.”—Jim Barnes, Independent Publisher

“For those familiar with Heat-Moon's writing, this book breaks new ground. It's fiction, of course. But this one is propelled by a quick-moving plot and evolves into a story of friendship and love among three traveling companions. It's a buddy movie waiting to be made.”—Kansas City Star

“O America makes for good winter reading — as an adventure, a history lesson or a treatise on freedom.”—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

"A remarkable and skillfully crafted historical novel by an author with an impressively original and effective storytelling style, "O America: Discovery in a New Land" is a thoroughly entertaining and compellingly thought-provoking read throughout."—Midwest Book Review

Product Details
ISBN: 9780826222046
ISBN-10: 0826222048
Publisher: University of Missouri
Publication Date: February 14th, 2020
Pages: 338

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