White River Junctions by Dave Norman

White River Junctions by Dave Norman: The title caught my eye because I’ve actually visited White River Junction, Vermont, and found it to be a charmingly quirky little town. The book is divided into two sections: the buildings and the people. The first is a series of essays detailing the histories of assorted structures in WRJ, and was definitely my favorite part. I loved reading about the railroad boom and subsequent demise, the rebirth of the Tip Top building, and the rest. It made me want to go back to WRJ and take another look at these places. The second section consists of interviews with elderly locals, and while they were reasonably interesting stories, they did not feel as connected to this specific area. Norman’s obsession with “what makes a Vermonter” grew tiring, especially as all the supposedly Vermont-specific characteristics listed are common to pretty much all rural folks who lived through the Great Depression. Unfortunately, what I’d hoped would be written as a love letter to WRJ turned out to be more of a eulogy. Norman comes across as quite pessimistic about the economic future of the town, and I was disappointed he did not write more about the more successful fixtures of the area, such as the Center for Comic Studies and the memorable Main Street Museum. Oh well. If nothing else, this book did inspire me to want to revisit the area, and if it does that to every reader, there may be hope for this little town yet.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

  1. Well, the author was a student of our Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program, and if this book grew out of his thesis, that may explain the “What makes a Vermonter?” theme. I’m looking forward to reading this – and creating a tour based on it!

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