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The Longest Line on the Map

Narrated by: Jacques Roy
Length: 14 hrs and 39 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

From the brilliant award-winning author of American Canopy, a dazzling account of the epic quest to link North and South America with the world’s longest road - the Pan-American Highway - and how its construction and evolution reflected the divergent fates of North, Central, and South America in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The Pan-American Highway is the longest road in the world, running the length of the Western Hemisphere from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska to Tierra del Fuego in South America. It represents a dream of friendship, commerce, mobility, of the Americas united. Our collective imaginations have been forged along its path: Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the iconic Argentine revolutionary, traveled it northward in The Motorcycle Diaries; Jack Kerouac, the voice of the beat generation, followed it southward in On the Road. Many adventurers have journeyed the highway’s distance, but the road itself still remains shrouded in mystery. Why was it built? And why does it remain unfinished, with a 60-mile long break, the famed Darien Gap, enduring between Panama and Colombia?

Now, historian Eric Rutkow chronicles the full story of the highway’s long, winding path to construction, which reshaped foreign policy, cost US taxpayers a billion dollars, consumed countless lives over a 150-year period, and changed the destinies of two continents. The Longest Line on the Map offers listeners a bird’s eye view of the incredible highway that snakes through more than a century’s worth of US and Latin American history, ending in a triumphant ideology that insists the Americas share a common destiny and mutual interests.

©2018 Eric Rutkow (P)2018 Simon & Schuster

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Comes Up Short of What Might Have Been

From the title and based upon the Audible description, I expected this book to cover the history of the entire Pan American Highway, from Prudhoe Bay to Tierra del Fuego. Or, I at least thought that the important portions of the road would be covered. Not so. First, half of the book concerns attempts at creating a rail line through Mexico and Central America in the 19th Century. Of course, that never occurred. It is an interesting political history, but does not concern what we now consider the Pan American Highway.

The highway portion of the book covers little of the highway itself beyond the Central American portion. Again, there is some interesting history here, but it leaves out the old AlCan Highway, the interstate system through the US, the Mexican highways, and any highways at all in South America. All that is included is what I would call the "shortest line on the map."

Furthermore, there is very little of the story of how the highway was built. Mostly it concerns the surveying expeditions in preparation for the highway construction.

So, what is left is a tale about the politics of the highway through Central America.

I even had to look up the Pan American Highway on Wikipedia to see what roads constitute the "longest line."

Needless to say, I was surprised and disappointed when the book ended with no discussion of other portions of the Pan American Highway. I was really looking forward to learning about the segments through the South American countries. If either the title of the book has been honest or the description on Audible had mentioned what the book was really about, I would not have purchased it.

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Lovely book, but why hire a narrator who can't pronounce Spanish?

Generally all very excellent, but a book on a Latino topic with substantial Spanish language words should have a narrator who can pronounce them.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful