Swanson embarks on a personal quest for meaning amid the swirl of our post-truth climate. Traversing the country, he introduces us to Americans who are contending with the aftermath of political and economic collapse and who are striving to recover some semblance of meaning and purpose.
... impressive ... Swanson serves as a candid and empathetic narrator, guiding us with restrained cynicism and enticing prose as he interrogates the stories we tell ourselves to paper over truths we’d rather not face ... The main characters across the essays are all white and mostly men, and Swanson approaches his subjects inquisitively ... his observations are shrewd, so much so that the occasions when he doesn’t probe deep enough stand out as disappointing exceptions ... Throughout Lost in Summerland, Swanson addresses the racism simmering in the cultural fault lines he explores, but he doesn’t directly grapple with the idea of white male predominance and its erosion. In that vacuum sits a handful of missed opportunities ... Swanson finds more questions than answers in his quest, but he reaches a meaningful starting point for treating the ills of our age: elevating the virtue of love above the idea of conquest ... His essays reveal a thinker willing to wrestle with the realization that there is more beyond his sight.
... eloquent ... combines personal essays, journalism, and travelogues into a memorable collection ... personal recollections and reflections mix with on-site reportage, resulting in compelling accounts ... The book’s wide, sophisticated vocabulary makes even its most pedestrian statements and recounted dialogue enjoyable, though its complex wording leads to occasional obfuscation ... Uncommon synonyms are also employed; whether these come across as a matter of artistic license, or as imprecise choices, will depend on the preferences and predilections of the reader ... Swanson’s perspectives are empathetic and honest. The people and situations he describes are considered with the care of a sociologist, but also a sensitive heart. The essay collection Lost in Summerland forwards a smorgasbord of ideas, people, and places, all filtered through the perceptions of a skilled writer.
... unlike other essayists who might use this trope for humor, Swanson is continually looking for meaning and depth ... Swanson searches for sense and narrative in a world that is often senseless and even bleak. While he provides more questions than answers, Swanson’s contemplative collection is relatable, timely, and thought-provoking.