Reviewed by Joyce Lovelace
The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert 9780142002834 PB $15.00
Eustace Conway grew up in the suburbs of the Carolinas in the 1960’s and 70’s. Encouraged by his mother and driven by the disapproval of his father, Eustace became the quintessential mountain man. Think “My Side of the Mountain” for a lifetime. Eustace accomplishes a great deal during his lifetime: accumulating 1000 acres of mountain land, building and running an educational facility to teach practical skills to adults and school children, epic trips by horseback across the US, but there is a dark side to Eustace. The authoritarianism of his maternal Grandfather, seems to combine with the rigid disapproval of his father into a man who desperately wants to teach practical skills to American youth before it’s too late, but who can’t bend enough to understand, listen to or even tolerate, his students.
Eustace accomplishes a great deal, and deserves recognition for that. Ultimately the book reveals not the “Last American Man”, but the last of a man whose desperate search for paternal approval, feeds a drive that ultimately costs him the ability to actually live the life he desired.
“Do unto those downstream as you would
have those upstream do unto you.”