Gene Lyons
August 09, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Far From Home: Life and Loss in Two American Towns

Current Status
In Season
Ron Powers
Random House
Nonfiction, Pop Culture

We gave it a B

As a Pulitzer Prize-winning TV critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, Ron Powers specialized in strong feelings and hyperbolic rhetoric. Now the same guy who once bitterly predicted that Morton Downey Jr. would represent ”the face of television in the twenty-first century” has glimpsed a different kind of apocalypse: the vanishing of small towns and neighborly virtues from the American landscape in Far From Home.

Centering upon the vastly different communities of Cairo, Ill., and Kent, Conn., Powers’ intensely personal narrative sees a ”new and grotesque prospect…for the American town, that sacred entity so celebrated by Tocqueville and Agee and Thomas Wolfe and Mark Twain: death by atrophy, or death by renaissance.”

Rhetoric aside, Powers has a resonant theme here. Many Americans share a nostalgia for places forever altered by relentless growth. An energetic and vivid reporter, Powers at his best can make readers sympathize with the plight of ordinary people struggling against economic forces seemingly beyond anybody’s control. But Powers at his hyperbolic worst can be a bore. B

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