Within a few pages of starting The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters I thought I was in for a treat. It immediately reminded me of a more humorous version of Lonesome Dove, which also won the Pulitzer and was also on a topic I didn’t think I cared about.
The story was that of a father and son who left their comfortable lives in Louisville to strike it rich in the gold rush of 1849. I think we all know how the gold rush worked out for most folks, and the folks in this book were no exception. They did get lucky in various ways several times, but of course there was always a setback lying in wait behind the next corner.
Overall this was an enjoyable read, but I could have done without all the weird racist stuff. It’s written from the 1st person perspective, and I kept thinking that the protagonist was going to eventually realize that his opinions of “Indians,” and other nationalities were ridiculous, but that time did not come. There was one kind-of exception where he eventually grudgingly admitted that this one particular girl wasn’t as bad as “those Indians,” but that hardly felt like a learning moment.
The book won the Pulitzer in 1958, which many will accept as an excuse for the racism. If you’re willing to accept that, or you simply don’t care about those types of over/undertones, then you may very well enjoy this book. The pacing is good, the plot is interesting, there’s plenty of character development, and the descriptions are excellent – when they’re not racist.
At 535 pages, this book counts toward the Chunkster Reading Challenge, and I’m now extremely close to having read all of the Pulitzer-prize winning novels.