Dispatches From Pluto

Dispatches From Pluto

Lost and Found in the Mississippi Delta

Book - 2015
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Winner of the Pat Conroy Southern Book Prize
Mississippi's #1 Bestseller of 2015 and 2016 ( The Clarion-Ledger )
A New York Times Bestseller

In Dispatches from Pluto , adventure writer Richard Grant takes on "the most American place on Earth"--the enigmatic, beautiful, often derided Mississippi Delta.

Richard Grant and his girlfriend were living in a shoebox apartment in New York City when they decided on a whim to buy an old plantation house in the Mississippi Delta. Dispatches from Pluto is their journey of discovery into this strange and wonderful American place. Imagine A Year In Provence with alligators and assassins, or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with hunting scenes and swamp-to-table dining.

On a remote, isolated strip of land, three miles beyond the tiny community of Pluto, Richard and his girlfriend, Mariah, embark on a new life. They learn to hunt, grow their own food, and fend off alligators, snakes, and varmints galore. They befriend an array of unforgettable local characters--blues legend T-Model Ford, cookbook maven Martha Foose, catfish farmers, eccentric millionaires, and the actor Morgan Freeman. Grant brings an adept, empathetic eye to the fascinating people he meets, capturing the rich, extraordinary culture of the Delta, while tracking its utterly bizarre and criminal extremes. Reporting from all angles as only an outsider can, Grant also delves deeply into the Delta's lingering racial tensions. He finds that de facto segregation continues. Yet even as he observes major structural problems, he encounters many close, loving, and interdependent relationships between black and white families--and good reasons for hope.

Dispatches from Pluto is a book as unique as the Delta itself. It's lively, entertaining, and funny, containing a travel writer's flair for in-depth reporting alongside insightful reflections on poverty, community, and race. It's also a love story, as the nomadic Grant learns to settle down. He falls not just for his girlfriend but for the beguiling place they now call home. Mississippi, Grant concludes, is the best-kept secret in America.
Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, ©2015.
ISBN: 9781476709642
Characteristics: x, 302 pages ;,22 cm.

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sandraperkins
Sep 02, 2018

Author Richard Grant and his partner Mariah are living in NYC when they decide to buy an old plantation house in the Mississippi Delta, in Holmes County (the poorest county in MS). Richard is British, and Mariah is from Tucson. Both are liberals. Their friends think they have lost their minds.

This book is a series of essays about their move and their first year in MS.

For those of us who have not spent time in the Deep South, and who likely have definite ideas (prejudices?) about the South and the people who live there, this book is a revelation.

The blurb on the back of the book states: “Imagine A Year in Provence with alligators and assassins. Or Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil with hunting scenes and swamp-to-table dining.”

I found this book to be fascinating and compelling. Mr. Grant lovingly describes his life in MS, the dear friends he and Mariah make, and so many new experiences—from hunting doves and deer, to joining a very informal “country club” of which Morgan Freeman is a member, to inviting friends and family from all over the world to visit his MS home for big parties (they all come and have a ball!).

Throughout the book, Mr. Grant talks about racism. I imagine most of us who have not spent time in the South assume everyone there is racist. The reality is much more complex and nuanced. Mr. Grant has friends of all races, some of whom are willing to talk at length about racism. And he is constantly observing behavior and conversations. There is a great variety of attitudes and perspectives about race, from both black and white residents.

Because Mr. Grant is British, he appears to take a fresh look at race relations as an objective outsider. But he is not an outsider, because he has fallen in love with Mississippi and its people (or most of them). Clearly he has political and other differences with many of his friends and neighbors, but he listens to what they say, and he loves them for their positive qualities instead of writing them off for their differences.

What I really appreciate about this book is that it provides a very personal perspective on the people and cultural differences in MS, in a respectful and loving way. Mr. Grant has empathy and compassion for the people of MS. The author does talk about the problems and flaws in the people and the state, but he emphasizes the good in people.

Mr. Grant concludes, “Mississippi just might be the best-kept secret in America.”

b
barbara_61
Jul 04, 2018

Great read if you are interested in race relations and the culture in the Deep South of the United States! I definitely recommend it.

s
santiano9
Aug 20, 2016

Excellent read. Even those without a fondness for stories about the South will enjoy this account of the author's move to the Delta. While the ending chapters were weaker, overall a great account well told.

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