Dispatches from the Underwater Town, the Lava-Side Inn, and Other Extreme Locales
By Jake Halpern
(Houghton Mifflin, Hardcover, 9780618155484, 256pp.)
Publication Date: May 29, 2003
List Price: $23.00*
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Funny, moving, and utterly unique, Braving Home introduces us to five unforgettable modern American pioneers. When Jake Halpern was a cub reporter, he became obsessed with stories about "some outlandish and often hellish place inhabited by a handful of stalwarts who refused to leave." His fellow reporters joked with him and nicknamed him the Bad Homes Correspondent. But the more he learned about these people, the more he was drawn to them.
Determined to understand their fierce devotion to home, Halpern set off on a journey to five of the most punishing towns in America. Braving Home is his irresistible portrait of these hometowns and his friendships with their most loyal residents. In North Carolina, he meets a retired mill worker who single-handedly manned his hometown in the wake of a devastating flood. In Alaska, Halpern works for a spunky woman who runs a video store/tanning salon and delivers newspapers to an "indoor town" a lone snowbound high-rise at the foot of a glacier. At the base of a Hawaiian volcano, he stays with a hermit whose house, formally an inn, was surrounded by molten lava. In Malibu, nestled among the glitterati, a longtime "hillbilly" teaches him the traditions of firefighting. Finally, on a barrier island off the coast of Louisiana, a legendary storm rider tells of surviving hurricanes even if it means tying one's hair to a tree.
Throughout his journey, Halpern explores the value of rootedness in an age when American society is more mobile than ever. Along the way, he discovers why no amount of floods, lava, wind, fire, or hurricanes can tug these unforgettable people from their roots.
"Part travelogue, part magazine feature, part meditation on the meaning of home...[Halpern] writes well...has an eye for detail." The Wall Street Journal
"A fascinatingly quirky lot, Halpern's subjets are fiercely loyal, unfazed by danger, yet palpably fearful of the world beyond." Boston Herald
"[Halpern's] breezy but educated and literary style combines with an unmistakebale goodness...wins over his readers in the opening pages." Buffalo News
"A memorable commentary on the bizarre, extreme, and otherwise outre places which people actually choose to roost."
"Individually these are compelling, well-told tales of people living, literally, on the edge." Entertainment Weekly
"Halpern mines these situations for more than just quirk, turning them into impressive meditations on the power of place." Outside
"Halpern's flair for description enables readers to easily visualize...This is perceptive writing that illuminates the human condition." Publishers Weekly
"Halpern is 'impressed by their fierce pioneer spirit, clearly atavistic, but proudly unyielding.' You will be, too." Kirkus Reviews
"The book is like a stay-at-home adventure, with all the excitement but none of the hardship." Booklist, ALA
"...wonderfully readable profiles. [Halpern's] off-the-beaten-path stories will keep readers turning the pages of this unusual book." Bookpage
"An entertaining and lovingly rendered protrait of stalwart, somewhat eccentric characters who know...the true worth of their real homes..." Body&Soul