Mark Twain

Mark Twain
Tom Sawyer Abroad

This lesser-known novella by Mark Twain transports familiar characters to fresh surroundings—by means of a hot-air balloon, one of the crazes of the late 19th century.

Tom is recovering from a gunshot wound he received in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and milking his recent exploits for all they’re worth. “He never let go that limp when his leg got well, but practiced it nights at home, and kept it as good as new, right along,” says narrator Huck admiringly.

But past triumphs aren’t enough to satisfy the red-blooded Tom; he’s itching for some new venue where he can prove his mettle. If there’s no battlefield handy for the minting of heroes, he’ll just have to improvise.

His first plan is to embark on a modern-day Crusade to recover the Holy Land from the paynim (infidels). Huck and Jim, simple souls that they are, don’t see the sense of trying to take land away from its rightful owners. “If I had a farm,” Huck commences several times by way of analogy, until Tom shuts him up.

Tom, of course, is the young Sam Clemens, bursting at the seams of his britches with imagination, orneriness, generosity, and zest for living, in nearly equal parts. Soon after he abandons the Crusade idea, the three friends find themselves airborne over the Atlantic—albeit unintentionally. Their impromptu voyage gives rise to lively discussions about how snorers can sleep through the sound of their own snoring; whether a lion would eat its brother-in-law; and why Indiana isn’t pink, the way it appears on the map.

“There ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them, than to travel with them,” observes Huck sagely. Just so. Come along on the ride and see for yourself.

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