Read Remark Book Review - Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

Book Review: Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell

One-sentence summary:

Sarah Vowell takes a delightful trip through the murders of our presidents; an assassination vacation, if you will (don’t worry – it’s not as dark as I make it sound).


Witty, nerdy, and full o’ fun facts, Assassination Vacation follows Sarah Vowell as she takes merry field trips to research the deaths of Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, and William McKinley.

Of course, their deaths aren’t the source of merriment. Rather, it’s the wonderful joy of delving into our history. Vowell reads memorial plaques with gusto (even the inane ones) and chats up museum guides.

In fact, her retirement dream is not to fly south and sip mimosas in Florida whilst wearing culottes and wide-brimmed hats. Instead, she wants to be a docent…not a bad aspiration, now that she mentions it.

Vowell has done her research. She knows these subjects well. And by well, I mean wwwwweeeeeeeeelllllllll.

Of course, a book like this can only skim the surface of its subjects. She reveals glimpses of each assassination that make me want to dive into my own home-side homicide holiday, particularly the story of Henry and Clara (the couple who shared Lincoln’s theatre box on the night of his death).

Ultimately, Assassination Vacation isn’t a lesson in the events as much as it’s a chance to revel in them (in a non exploitative way, of course). I learned more about the basics from dedicated books and PBS specials and was able to appreciate this book for the added factoids.

It works better as a companion to history, which is as I imagine Vowell intended.

She doesn’t aim to teach history. She aims to enjoy it.

Call it an appetizer. Call it desert. But don’t call it an entree. Bon apetit!