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April 23 , 2009

Quicklet on Bill Bryson's The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America (CliffsNotes-like Summary, Analysis, and Commentary)


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I wanted to be a European boy. I wanted to live in an apartment across from a park in the heart of a city, and from my bedroom window look out on a crowded vista of hills and rooftops. I wanted to ride trams and understand strange languages.

Bill Bryson grew up in Des Moines, Iowa. As an adult he moved to England where he married his wife and raised his family. In 1987, he returned to the U.S. and his hometown, borrowed his mothers car and set out on a journey across the continental United States to research and write the travel book that would become The Lost Continent, which was published in 1989.

Neither his first book, or his first travel book, The Lost Continent, established Brysons reputation as a travel writer. During the course of the book, Bryson travels more than 14,000 miles and visits 38 of the 48 contiguous U.S. states.

The book is written in an easy, conversational style. Bryson wastes few opportunities to poke fun at himself, the destinations he visits and the people he meets along the way, but the lighthearted tone and Brysons sense of humor mean the book never becomes mean-spirited. Even in the spots that he finds genuinely pleasing, Bryson finds something to laugh at as was the case in Warm Springs, Georgia. On his way to visit the Little White House there, Bryson notes, The path was lined with large rocks from each state. Every governor had evidently been asked to contribute some hunk of native stone and here they were, lined up like a guard of honor. Its not often you see an idea that stupid brought to fruition.


Alissa Grosso is a young adult novelist, a book sales representative and serves as the personal servant to three ungrateful cats and one needy dog. When she has free time, she usually spends it outside. She lives in New Jersey. More information can be found at her website


Bills father is no longer alive at the time of Bills cross country Lost Continent journey. However, we learn that he was a famous sportswriter. As the family patriarch he led Bill and his family on many road trips, where he had a tendency to get lost; preferred to avoid tourist traps, particularly those that cost too much money and was fond of visiting battlefields, much to his youngest sons chagrin.

Bills mother is still alive, when Bill takes his Lost Continent journey, and in fact her car serves as Bills wheels throughout the trip. Like most mothers, her primary concerns on any of Bills travels are that he has clean underwear and has been getting enough to eat.

Bills grandmother is long gone by the time of the writing of the book. He recalls her as a sweet woman who had a tendency to bake some unusual and not especially pleasant dishes. She had a habit of listening in to conversations on their local party line...

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Bill Bryson's The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America

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