Monday, July 11, 2011

thoughts on: Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure

Harry Truman's Excellent AdventureHarry Truman's Excellent Adventure by Matthew Algeo

On one of our Maryland to Colorado road trips, which we do at least once per year, we visited Truman's home in Independence.  As soon as I saw their kitchen, I loved the Truman's.  So, this book was a summer must read for me:  the Trumans and road trips.

Algeo combines a recounting of the Truman's experiences along the way, at least those which are documented; tales of the towns they passed through; a discussion of Truman as former president; and his own encounters following Truman's path today. 

It was the discussions about Truman as a former president that I found most interesting.  Truman received no pension when he left office, and refused to commercialize the presidency by accepting corporate offers or speaking engagements, which left them with only a small Army pension from his years in WWI.  His attitude towards the dignity of the office is so far from what it later became. (Ford was the first to cash in on having formerly been the US president.)  Although less time is devoted to Bess, Algeo shows us what a delightful lady she was in her private life, so unlike the dour persona who reluctantly lived in the spotlight of the White House.

Algeo's efforts at following the Truman's trail and visiting the houses, hotels, diners, and gas stations where they stopped reminded me of Tony Horwitz's books.  However, in Algeo's hands, it translated into fluffy filler rather than interesting insight.  We all know that highways have bypassed small town America and big box chains have put mom and pops out of business.  I would have rather heard more about Harry and Bess.

Even so, this was a fun summer read.

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