When most people plan a vacation, they think of warm weather, palm trees, and sunny beaches. Sarah Vowell thinks of graveyards, tours of old houses, and metal plaques mounted on walls of buildings.
Readers get to tag along with Vowell as she vacations, visiting places of historical interest as they connect to the lives, and deaths, of assassinated former United States Presidents. Despite what you may be thinking about a historical book written about long dead Presidents, I assure you, the book is fascinating.
Vowell has split Assassination Vacation into three parts, one for each President she focused on. The first section is about Lincoln, one of the most famous U.S. Presidents. The second section is about Garfield. Who is that?
“The most famous thing said about President James A. Garfield is about how nobody has any idea who the hell he was.”, explains Vowell.
The last part is not about JFK, as you might expect. Vowell does talk a little about the JFK assassination in the book, but, he doesn’t get an entire section dedicated to him. No, instead Vowell finishes off her book with a section on McKinley.
There is something about Vowell’s writing style that I found captivating. She can be sarcastic one minute, serious the next, and humorous the entire time. I am not one to wake up in the morning, while on summer vacation, and think “I just can’t wait to read that book about dead Presidents!”. However, Vowell’s snarky writing made this book something I did not want to put down.
Vowell uncovers some bizarre things about the lives of the Presidents, the childhoods of their assassins, and how they all came together. In one chapter, she describes a sex cult, that later on made pottery. She points out that Todd Lincoln might have been the “Angel of Death”, because of a series of bizarre coincidences.
Vowell brings family and friends with her as she tours places people lived, died, or used as a hideout. I found myself laughing at the statements her friends made about these strange vacation destinations.
The only thing I didn’t like about the book was that I wish I had read it sooner. I guess that’s more about my poor timing, and not about the book at all. Vowell wrote this book while George W. Bush was still president, and she refers to him throughout the book as “the current president”, instead of by name. This could get more confusing as time goes by.