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A review of 'The Last American Man' by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Last American Man is a book by Elizabeth Gilbert about back-to-nature pioneer Eustace Conway. Elizabeth Gilbert is also famous for her best selling book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ which has also been made into a movie starring Julia Roberts. Eustace Conway gave up city life and began living in the woods at the age of seventeen.

American He man

He wants the world to follow him into the woods. He has a 1000 acre farm called Turtle Island where he teaches city dwellers the art of living and surviving in the wild. Eustace has many manly adventures to his name - this is the reason why Gilbert calls him the ‘Last American Man.’ Eustace has ridden on horseback from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast, and has walked the Appalachian Trail.

Surviving in the woods

He is Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone all rolled into one. Upon reading the book, one can easily gather the impression that the author has rather fallen in love with her subject. She lauds him as a great lover with an endless trail of romantic conquests. She is enthralled by his shunning of factory products and his survival instincts through jungle tricks like making fire by rubbing sticks and clothes from animal skins.

Turtle Island

Eustace Conway took to the woods because of an autocratic father. He learned to use a throwing knife and a bow and arrow to hunt animals. This American man began living away from his father’s home in a tepee in the wild. He was born in South Carolina, and today his nature reserve Turtle Island is in North Carolina.

Great adventurer

The writer indeed seems to be obsessed with Conway’s adventures and quirks like going down the Mississippi in a handmade canoe and his shunning electricity. While slowly and steadily reading the book, it does creep up on the reader that these are really adventures which could only have been undertaken by a special kind of personality. Conway has lived for months with primitive people in Guatemala. He has crossed Alaska in a kayak. The most talked about adventure is of course, the coast-to-coast horse ride which Eustace undertook with his brother Judson and a friend. Sticking to his style of living off the land, they ate roadkill deer. They made soup out of squirrel. Arriving 103 days later, they set up a record. Although Eustace Conway is a remarkable man, the reader does come away a little saddened by his present lonely existence. Final word The book has been loved by all lovers of wildlife and the frontier spirit, but some have taken objection to the author’s title and feel that someone larger than Eustace deserves the title.

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