Tuesday, July 21, 2015
I was 13 in 1986 when Susie and Claire graduated and departed as they tried to locate their next selves with around the world tickets in their hands, a backpack, and big dreams. There are parts of this book that strike a chord with me - and easier to engage with than having recently read Wild, by Cheryl Strange. I remember envying my friends that had a copy of Linda Goodman's Love Signs...and all that angst growing up, and not having a clue what I was going to do after I went to university.
This novel covers about three months of an ill-fated trip that was many things. I think I laughed a few times, I know that I cringed a few times, it was quite the story, and it didn't always reflect Susie and her friend, and North Americans in all that great of a light. It is well written, but there are passages that are downright offensive about how they both behaved, and also how truly naive they were. They don't always treat the locals all that well, and they definitely come off as self-centered at times. Isn't that what growing up is all about? I remember my own month long backpacking trip back in 1995, and the experiences that I had, and the people I met along the way - it is far different when you go Ireland and the UK rather than to Asia. When the travelers end up back in the US after Claire's mental breakdown, you never do learn what happens to Susan's travelling partner, and likely, that is for the best. I appreciate that this was Susan's story - there are times I think about writing about our experiences - and I think about whose 'voice' and whose 'story' would it truly be - for me, although I may write about my kids or my husband, or the people I care about, but it would be my 'story' that is told and it would be my evolution I struggle with.
At the end of the day, and interesting snapshot of China in 1986 as it slowly opened to the West, a coming of age story, and an intriguing travel read.