Synopses & Reviews
In this New York Times
bestseller, the author of Assassination Vacation
"brings the [Puritan] era wickedly to life" (Washington Post
To this day, America views itself as a Puritan nation, but Sarah Vowell investigates what that means — and what it should mean. What she discovers is something far different from what their uptight shoebuckles-and-corn reputation might suggest — a highly literate, deeply principled, and surprisingly feisty people, whose story is filled with pamphlet feuds, witty courtroom dramas, and bloody vengeance.
Vowell takes us from the modern-day reenactment of an Indian massacre to the Mohegan Sun casino, from old-timey Puritan poetry, where righteousness is rhymed with wilderness, to a Mayflower-themed waterslide. Throughout, The Wordy Shipmates is rich in historical fact, humorous insight, and social commentary by one of America's most celebrated voices.
"Essayist and public radio regular Vowell (Assassination Vacation) revisits America's Puritan roots in this witty exploration of the ways in which our country's present predicaments are inextricably tied to its past. In a style less colloquial than her previous books, Vowell traces the 1630 journey of several key English colonists and members of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Foremost among these men was John Winthrop, who would become governor of Massachusetts. While the Puritans who had earlier sailed to Plymouth on the Mayflower were separatists, Winthrop's followers remained loyal to England, spurred on by Puritan Reverend John Cotton's proclamation that they were God's chosen people. Vowell underscores that the seemingly minute differences between the Plymouth Puritans and the Massachusetts Puritans were as meaningful as the current Sunni/Shia Muslim rift. Gracefully interspersing her history lesson with personal anecdotes, Vowell offers reflections that are both amusing (colonial history lesson via The Brady Bunch) and tender (watching New Yorkers patiently waiting in line to donate blood after 9/11)." Publishers Weekly Starred Review (Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.)
"Fans will be pleased to see that Vowell's admittedly smart-alecky style is alive and well.... At times dense, at times silly, at times surpassingly wise." Kirkus Reviews
"Most writing on the Puritans is as dour as the Puritans themselves. Vowell has fun with them, and in the process, she helps us take seriously both their lives and their legacy." Washington Post
"A book dense with detail, insight, and humor." Booklist
"[Vowell's] a complex blend: part brilliant essayist, part pop-culture-loving comedian and a full-time unabashed history geek. The mixture makes her both proudly pointy-headed and forever entertaining." Seattle Times
"Sarah Vowell lends her engaging voice and keen powers of observation to a work of social history....Provid[ing] a glimpse of what life was really like for the people of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and the founders of Plymouth." Los Angeles Times
"Vowell's words crackle on the printed page...smart, quirky and unabashedly incendiary...Vowell is very funny. She is generous as she wrestles with the moral intricacies of our nation's beginnings and how Puritan contradictions inform our sense of American exceptionalism today...The Wordy Shipmates is more than a punk-ish twist on our brave, verbose, tortured forebears, living in their new colony like 'an ashram in the woods.'" Cleveland Plain Dealer
"For those of us who'd rather harvest our history lessons from The Simpsons than the History Channel, Vowell is a latter-day hero....Fascinating." Elle
"Vowell...reads history with attitude, humor and sensitivity." Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"[Vowell exercises] her trademark sweet, silly, arch sense of the incongruous ways we memorialize the American past." Chicago Tribune
From the New York Times-bestselling author of Assassination Vacation and The Partly Cloudy Patriot comes an examination of the Puritans, their covenant communities, deep-rooted idealism, political and cultural relevance, and their myriad oddities.
About the Author
Hip, irreverent, and with a voice that NPR fans of This American Life instantly perk up to, Sarah Vowell makes both readers and listeners laugh out loud with her wry, comic observations on everything from politics to pop culture. She is the author of Radio On, Take the Cannoli, and The Partly Cloudy Patriot. She lives in New York City.