Navigating the Mississippi River from Minneapolis to New Orleans, Jonathan Raban opens himself to experience the river in all her turbulent and unpredictable old glory. Going wherever the current takes him, he joins a coon-hunt in Savana, falls for a girl in St Louis, worships with black Baptists in Memphis and hangs out with the housewives of Pemiscot and the hog-king of Dubuque. Through tears of laughter, we are led into the heartland of America – with its hunger and hospitality, its inventive energy and its charming lethargy – and come to know something of its soul.
But the journey is as much the story of Raban as it is of the Mississippi. Navigating the dangerous, ever-changing waters in an unsuitably fragile aluminium skiff, he immerses himself as he tries to give shape to the river and the story – finding himself by turns vulnerable, curious, angry and, like all of us, sometimes foolishly in love.