This review refers to the audio book version:
I really wanted to like this book more than I did after having a friend give it glowing reviews and seeing an interview with the author on the Daily Show. I thought I'd enjoy this much more listening to the audio version read by the author in her little girl lispy voice and her droll humor. However, I found my mind wandering too much away from the book and into my own thoughts as I listened. Also, whereas with a book I could have thumbed back through to remind myself who was who and what was what, it's impossible to do so with an audio book. And when you're driving, you can't very well go google maps and wikipedia to get all the many Johns, place locations, and dates straight in your mind.
In this novel, Vowell mainly focuses on the Puritan group led by John Winthrop. I wish there had been more structure in the book. There didn't seem to be any sort of chronological or otherwise logical order to her subjects. I had hoped for more information about the settlement about their colony, the extremity of the puritan religion, and their relations with the Native Americans than I got from this book.
In the end, I think I came away with the following impressions from the book:
1. John Winthrop's Puritans are different than the ones that first settled in the New England and, while they did undergo hardships in which at least one person in every family died within the first year, they didn't have the make same type of horrific adjustments to the New World that the first settlers did.
2. Sarah Vowell is in love with John Winthrop but thinks he is kind of an awful guy nonetheless.
3. Sarah Vowell is in love with the concept of the USA being "a city on a hill" ordained by God even though she's embarrassed at the pompous arrogance of the idea.
4. Winthrop's Puritans loved to banish people and were only religiously tolerant if you believed like them.
5. John Winthrop's puritans would likely banish today's spiritually-minded experience-driven evangelicals for their beliefs.
6. I'm never listening to a history audio book again.Note: While I critique both purchased and free books in the same way, I'm legally obligated to tell you I received this book free through the Amazon Vine program in return for my review. Blah blah blah.