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I loved this account of the precocious 19-year-old French marquis who was determined to join George Washington and the Americans against the British.

Dry history this is not. Just as in Unfamiliar Fishes (the story of the American takeover of Hawaii), Vowell's writing is a constant reality check on history; her narrative is liberally peppered with her own irreverent, yet spot-on observations, and she is so good at showing how we are always linked to our past.

In Lafayette, the marquis succeeds, though in the process he discovers a more fragmented people than he'd imagined, and through him, Vowell reveals the particular magic of our country's union and disunion.

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell (Riverhead Books) Recommended by Kent at Quail Ridge Books Raleigh NC