The Kindness of Strangers: Penniless Across America by Mike McIntyre

The Kindness of Strangers follows Mike McIntyre in his journey across the US – from Coast to Coast – penniless. I bought it off Amazon when I was looking for something to read & it caught my eye (partly because it was a free book!) I read it about a week after I bought it & I have to admit, I have some pretty mixed feelings about the book & about Mr. McIntyre’s journey, as a whole.

McIntyre professes to be a man afraid of living & decides to, for the first time in his life, do something brave. He decides that travelling across the USA, coast to coast is the way to combat this fear of living & to make it even more interesting, he decides to do it by hitchhiking penniless. He will be completely reliant on the kindness of strangers for food, shelter & transportation – leaving home with only a backpack, no money & no real food. He plans to start his journey across America in his native California & to end in Cape Fear, North Carolina. He sees it as a way of finding the “real” America, the real Americans. Only real problem is will he succeed? McIntyre readily admits he’s a quitter & his own family are betting on how far from home he will get before he gives up. You’ll have to read the book to see how far he got!

Along the way McIntyre meets a motley crew of “Average” Americans – often people who have little & share much with McIntyre. McIntyre’s journey is an interesting idea, but I wasn’t overly enthusiastic about how he described some of the people he met along the way. He admittedly knew these people for brief moments (sometimes only a few hours), but he makes some pretty hasty (& sometimes mean) judgements.

McIntyre is a journalist & always had it in his mind to turn this journey into a book, I don’t think he did the journey justice in this memoire. He barely touches on the locations he travels to & through & while he met some real salt-of-the earth people along the way, he does little to get to know most of them & makes some pretty shocking judgements of some of them.

It’s a decent book, but I think with a little effort it could have been so much better!


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