2015 Simon Schuster Audio
Read by the author
Rating: 2/5 (Fair)
Traveling from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Baker City, Oregon, over the course of four months, Buck is accompanied by three cantankerous mules, his boisterous brother, Nick, and a Jack Russell terrier named Olive Oyl. Along the way, they dodge thunderstorms in Nebraska, chase runaway mules across the Wyoming plains, cross the Rockies, and make desperate fifty-mile forced marches for water. The Buck brothers repair so many broken wheels and axles that they nearly reinvent the art of wagon travel itself. They also must reckon with the ghost of their father, an eccentric yet loveable dreamer whose memory inspired their journey across the plains and whose premature death, many years earlier, has haunted them both ever since.
The Oregon Trail is a majestic, uniquely American journey of a lifetime.
I was really looking forward to reading this book, which my book group selected for our May discussion. I bought the paperback, but when my husband showed an interest in also reading it, I decided to download the audio and go that route. What a mistake! Rinker Buck (or the publisher) should have hired someone else to read this book. Buck's halting narration is not only jarring, but extremely annoying and I was tempted to return to the print edition, although I don't know if that would have made a difference in my overall opinion of this narrative. It is far too long-winded, with multiple digressions, and I was happy when I finally finished. (Remember the whale chapter in Moby Dick? Well, I now know more about mules than I ever cared to know!) I could have also done with out the negative commentary about all RVers, the numerous accounts of Buck's childhood and strained relationship with his father, and the overabundant use of F-bombs (which are easily ignored in print, but not so much on audio). I wanted more about the adventures the two brothers experienced on the trail. Sadly, Buck Rinker had a great story to share, but he is not a great storyteller.