Author: Jack Kelly
Links: Bookshop (affiliate link) |Goodreads
Summary: I enjoyed this fascinating story, but sometimes found the multiple storylines disjointed and confusing.
The Erie Canal was an incredible technological achievement and this book tells the story of its creation. As the canal was built up, cities rose due to the new trade routes it created and transportation became much more rapid. Both of these factors enabled the religious revival taking place in the region.
The narrative style, helped along by some great images, made this an engaging story. I was never bored by the technical details of canal construction and I thought the author did a great job also highlighting the social changes the canal drove and was influenced by. The second storyline about the simultaneous religious revival was slightly less interesting to me, but the author kept my attention by focusing on the many fascinating developments of new religious sects and the many big personalities involved.
What kept this from being another Devil in the White City for me were some problems with the narrative flow. There were multiple pieces to each of the two storylines and connections between them were not made clear. When characters reappeared, the author gave us no reminders about who they were. This, combined with the sheer number of characters, made it hard to connect with any individuals. Towards the end, the pieces started to connect more, which was fun to see, but the transitions between sections remained abrupt.
Despite its flaws, this was an enjoyable read and I would recommend it to fans of the way The Devil in the White City combined a people-focused story with a story focused more on an awe-inspiring technical achievement.