Following the Trail
The Footloose American: Following the Hunter S. Thompson Trail Across South America, by Brian Kevin
by Jane Glowicki
The Footloose American is an insightful true story sharing the journey of Brian Kevin across South America, who was following the trail of legendary writer Hunter S. Thompson. Along the ride, Kevin touches on many aspects of South America, including culture, government, poverty, and the environment. He takes us on an intimate journey through jungles, down rivers, in the biggest of cities and in the most remote villages. He brings the readers closer to the early life of Hunter S. Thompson than they've ever been before.
Brian Kevin's writing strategy throughout the 360 page travel novel varies at times. He hammers the reader with a ten page description of dryer subjects, such as the Peruvian government system, and then he follows with a heartfelt description of wanderlust and the life of a traveller. If Thompson could learn to balance his content, he would hold the attention of readers for longer and create a more enjoyable, less choppy novel. Thompson chooses less to write with vivid descriptive language; instead he writes easy-to-read, to-the-point passages. This style of writing is convenient for readers, as it is simple to follow along. But what he gains in readability, he lacks in stylistic writing.
Thompson chooses to provoke thought in the reader by giving controversial facts such as "The youngest pregnant woman, at ten years old, was a Wayuu native in Colombia." Reading something that unbelievable makes the reader realize just how much the culture contrasts with the familiar North American norms. The two protagonists, Brian Kevin and Hunter S. Thompson himself mirror each other, even through they are decades apart. Kevin plans his journey through South America based on the articles and journal entries written by Thompson on his South American experience, fifty years prior. Although the two men are years apart and South America has changed drastically since then, they still seem to find themselves in the same situations, sharing the same thoughts. The strongest passages Kevin gave us were ones shedding light on the good hearts of people he met along the way. He writes with such compassion that all readers are left feeling joyful and light-hearted. Thompson proves to readers that despite cultural differences, good-hearted and authentic people are universal.
The author has many goals and intentions for this novel. He wants to educate people on the history of this region, but going deeper than that, he wants to give justice to so many groups of people who have been given the wrong stereotype. He protects smugglers and natives in Colombia, to the homeless in Peru. He does this because he saw first-hand what all of this was like, and that outsiders' impressions of those were inaccurate. It also seems as if the author is trying to defend Hunter S. Thompson, who was a controversial figure his whole life. Kevin wanted to shine light on a chapter of Thompson's life rarely acknowledged by the public. On the lighter side of things, Kevin wants to share the magic of wanderlust, and the personal stories he has from his journey.
Brian Kevin has proven himself to be capable of writing a travel commentary that touches on multiple issues. His style, similar to travel and adventure writers such as John Krakauer, is classic and effective. This novel will greatly attract lovers of spontaneity, travel, and cultural studies, so pick up this book if you're searching for an intellectual adventure across the beautiful continent of South America.