Reader Review by cloggie-downunder
The Last American Man is the first non-fiction book by Elizabeth Gilbert, written four years before her highly-successful memoir, Eat, Pray, Love. It tells the story of Eustace Conway, an American Man who believes his mission in life is to show the American population that they can be strong and resourceful, grow their own food, fabricate their own clothes, make fire with 2 sticks, and save the planet. Eustace was taught and encouraged to learn the survival skills he needed to be able to live in the woods by his supportive mother whilst being constantly denigrated and ridiculed by his cruel and mentally abusive father. It is therefore a great wonder that he survived these opposing influences, that he was self-assured enough to become the living metaphor: the rugged frontiersman, explorer, pioneer that Americans could idolise. Gilbert describes a man who is passionate about what he believes to the point of having an uncompromising personality that fails to appreciate and encourage the efforts of good people around him. She does this with humour and insight, and the book is quite fascinating in places, even if the end is a bit light on. This is certainly a much better read than her later, hugely self-indulgent Eat, Pray, Love.