From his globetrotting childhood, where he remembers serving as a cute, five-year-old “diversionary tactic” for his parents’ travels through KGB-controlled Russia, to his parents’ eventual divorce, Antonson chronicles the role travel has played in cementing his familial ties. “We travelled with love and some misgivings,” he writes of the epic journey with his father and brother, while covering the major destinations they encountered through their travels—including notables like Moscow, Chicago, and Pyongyang, North Korea. Antonson adopts the role of a terminal outsider, more local than tourist, while incorporating history, personal memory, and each city’s impact on the trio in descriptions that unfold into a richly textured narrative.
Standout recollections include a 1994 Samsonite store opening in Estonia, despite the citizens having little need for luggage and minimum means to travel, and his summary of the rules for exploring North Korea (no one was allowed to leave the hotel without permission, and the first stop of the trip was a mandatory show of respect at Kim Il Sung’s statue). Throughout, Antonson paints travel as a catalyst for family bonding, though he doesn’t shy away from sharing the gritty particulars that come with circumnavigating the Northern Hemisphere in close quarters with family members. This is a touching tribute to both the people riding the railways and the railways themselves, which “[weave] folklore with history, countrysides with capitals, people with dreams.”
Takeaway: Touching tribute to the transformative power of railway travel.
Comparable Titles: Paul Theroux, Pico Iyer.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-