When my library’s one male book club member suggested a book club title saying it was one of the best books he had ever read, we immediately put it into the queue. The book he recommended is called The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is the same Elizabeth Gilbert who wrote the super popular Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. The non-fiction book features Eustace Conway, mountain man and eccentric character. When Gilbert first interviewed Conway, it was for a GQ Magazine article The Last American Man Men's Lives: GQ.com. Gilbert expanded the article into a full length book. Before reading this book, I had never heard of Eustace Conway. Evidently, he is growing in popularity. He is now featured on the History Chanel’s show, “Mountain Men”. The book club very much enjoyed reading this book and it led to a very interesting discussion.
Eustace Conway embraces trades and skills that are fading away and he criticizes how far modern men have disconnected from nature. One has to respect Conway’s attempt to revive forgotten skills. In The Last American Man we visit Conway at his home, Turtle Island Preserve, in the Appalachian Mountains. The book both praises Conway’s unique spirit and lifestyle and portrays him as human and flawed. I think what is well done about this book is its ability to describe Conway as multifaceted, admirable and misguided at the same time. Whether you agree with Conway’s philosophy or not, and whether you like Conway as a person doesn’t affect the reader’s ability to enjoy reading this unique story. Do I want to model myself after Eustace Conway? No. Do I think he has some valid points? Yes. Do I think you should read this book? Yes, I do.