Did you know, whilst on a train platform before he could fall to his death, John Wilkes Booth's brother saved Abraham Lincoln's son's life? It's interesting tidbits like this that you can pull out at parties or impress your friends with that you'll find in this book. Vowell, a history nerd at heart, travels to locations around the US immortalized by bloodshed, uncovering more about the assassinations of Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley. And with her sharp wit and wisecracking humor, it makes you feel like you're being taught a history lesson but by the cool, hip teacher.
— From Emily
From Buffalo to Alaska, Washington to the Dry Tortugas, Vowell visits locations immortalized and influenced by the spilling of politically important blood, reporting as she goes with her trademark blend of wisecracking humor, remarkable honesty, and thought-provoking criticism. We learn about the jinx that was Robert Todd Lincoln (present at the assassinations of Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, and McKinley) and witness the politicking that went into the making of the Lincoln Memorial. The resulting narrative is much more than an entertaining and informative travelogue -- it is the disturbing and fascinating story of how American death has been manipulated by popular culture, including literature, architecture, sculpture, and -- the author's favorite -- historical tourism. Though the themes of loss and violence are explored and we make detours to see how the Republican Party became the Republican Party, there are all kinds of lighter diversions along the way into the lives of the three presidents and their assassins, including mummies, show tunes, mean-spirited totem poles, and a nineteenth-century biblical sex cult.