Off-Season: Discovering America on Winter’s Shores – Ken McAlpine (2004)

A pretty good readable travelogue about a writer who travels up the East Coast from the very south of Florida to northern Maine stopping at some of the smaller seaside tourist towns in the off-season. (Hence the title.) It’s organized into a series of essays, most of which describe the various people who he meets along the way, people who for one reason or another are slightly eccentric, it seems.

He meets a professional lifeguard who is a former minister. He meets a dedicated couple who focus their lives on saving the reefs. And he whines a bit too much on the way about how much he is missing his family who live on the West Coast.

Fair enough. You miss your young kids. But you *chose* to do this, you aren’t being kept on the Eastern coast against your will, and no one is making you sleep in your van. Nor are these particularly heroic things to do. So quit whining.

Apart from that, it was rather a quiet meditative book reflecting the solitude of the towns during the colder months when the only people who remained were those who lived and worked there. McAlpine has some good descriptions, but his writing is much more philosophical than I had prepared for, so I did get a little impatient at times when he went off on some of the tangents that he did. However, he is a strong writer and is good at encouraging reticent and sometimes rather strange characters to open up and tell him about their lives on the sea shore.

And I enjoyed this book the more northerly McAlpine traveled, which I don’t think is the fault of the author at all. I am not that fond of hot sweaty places (like Florida and the few states above it); I think they are lovely in and of themselves, but I prefer to read about colder places as I get really uncomfortable and crabby otherwise. So I did notice that this tendency was reflected in my reading experience which I found to be interesting.

This was an OK read, but not because it was badly written. It was just an OK read because, perhaps, I am not the reader McAlpine had in mind.

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