Through her use of a first-person narrative, you see the ship through her eyes and feel like a trusted friend is telling you her story and giving you some expert advice. As she first steps onto the America Queen and walks through the Victorian designed interior with its Gentlemen’s Card Room, Ladies Parlor and Mark Twain’s Gallery you are taken back to a period reminiscent of the upper class lifestyle during the years preceding the Southern Confederacy.
We always enjoy meeting fellow passengers and learning about their life experiences, so we appreciated that life on the American Queen is filled is filled with friendly passengers interested in sharing their stories and learning about yours.
Each chapter in the book, whether about the ship or while in a port, offers interesting nuggets about the history of the Mississippi valley, facts about steam engines and piloting a river boat, or historical facts and tidbits about port cities and their storied past.
For instance, you’ll learn about the engines that power the paddle boat, how fast it travels, and how much of the total propulsion comes from the paddlewheels. Her personal description of each port gives you an insight of what you could expect to see while also providing an overarching historical context of the South during this period.
For instance, in a passage about the famous New Orleans “Preservation Hall” she writes, “Here are some of the no’s that make Preservation Hall unique: there is no stage; there are no microphones or speakers; there’s no air conditioning. There is no bar, no bathroom, no smoking is allowed, and, as I can attest from personal experience, no comfortable seats. And in all the corners hang dusty cobwebs. But, believe me, once the music starts, none of that matters.” This style of storytelling captives you, pulling you deeper and deeper into the book.
The book offers a glance back in time but looks at it with a more contemporary perspective. While in Vicksburg, she came across a portrait of a Confederate officer with a black slave standing behind him. Through the portrait she could feel the power of the officer and the emptiness of the slave. Below the portrait was a card noting “how faithful the slave … was to his kind, white master,” and how the slave fully supported the Confederacy. “What a crock,” Sunny writes. “Just look at his expressionless face, his empty eyes…” “I’m surprised that no one has changed the text to reflect a more realistic, more sensitive understanding of the two people in the photograph.” She continues, “The … text upsets me, and I have to leave the room.”
After reading the book I felt like I was an old friend of the authors who were sharing some of their life stories and experiences to help me learn and grow, and encourage me to take an river cruise on the Mississippi.
I encourage you to read this book if you are a history buff, a passionate cruiser, or just curious.
So how to choose the right vacation for you?
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