American Trail is a story of redemption and a young man's search for it.
Jack Gale is a Baby Boomer, a member of that loud, narcistic generation that grew up believing the American Dream was its entitlement. "My generation was the first to grow up with television," is how Jack begins his story. It was the 1950's, an age of innocence when TV sitcoms taught families how to be dutiful, conforming, and child-centered. On Saturday mornings kids sat on the floor watching cartoons and learned from the commercials what cereals their mothers should buy, the ones with the best toys boxed inside. "Hey, kids, tell your mom..." they were told. The stuff of Jack's boyhood is Davy Crockett caps, Daisy air rifles, and American Bandstand. But so are fallout shelters in the basement and A-bomb drills in grade school.
While he is in college, Jack's charmed life takes an unexpected turn one night when he draws a low number in the national draft lottery and suddenly the threat of military service in Vietnam darkens his Dream. From there he chooses a new trail, one that passes through some of his generation's defining touchstones: anti-war rallies, Woodstock, failed idealism, and a bohemian search for fulfillment. The trail takes him to a battleground with his father where they fight over differences in ambition, values, and duty.
When Jack learns of a sociologist's claim that America's general happiness peaked in 1957 and has been declining ever since, he sees it as a reflection of his own life. Ultimately, he realizes his Dream was a gift and a debt to repay, and finds redemption in the most unlikely place.