"Reading the early pages of this rich, romantic, lushly descriptive memoir of Zeppa's three years in the tiny Buddhist kingdom just south of Tibet, I counted my cushy American blessings...But by the end, I not only got why Zeppa stayed in Bhutan...I actually envied her experience. Her tale is part love story, part history lesson and part Buddhism 101...Zeppa writes romantically without romanticizing, and her fascinating story is something you'll marvel at the first time and want to go back to again and again." --Mademoiselle
"Heartfelt...a good reminder that your passport, both literally and figuratively, can open up an entire world of possibilities." --Harper's Bazaar
"Zeppa's story sheds the customary contours of the year-abroad memoir and starts to become something more like a memoir of conversion, a testament of newfound faith." --The New York Times Book Review
"A joy to read." --Chicago Tribune
Zeppa's story is nearly an inversion of the ancient Buddhist tale of Siddhartha (in which a prince ventures from the paradise of his father's palace only to find the suffering and decay that he never knew existed) in that the author, at the age of 22, abruptly leaves a stale life in Canada to become a volunteer teacher in the remote and largely undisturbed Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan. Cloaked in the airy mountains between India and China, Bhutan initially frustrates but eventually captivates Zeppa with its rudimentary lifestyle that forces her to question former values and plans for the future. Though the story line would seem to open itself to cloying romanticization, Zeppa's telling of her clumsy attempts to adapt rings with sincerity and inspires sympathy. She thinks to herself upon visiting a local house: "In one shadowy corner, there is a skinny chicken. I blink several times but it does not vanish. Is it a pet? Is it dinner?" Zeppa's lucid descriptions of the craggy terrain and honest respect for the daily struggles of the natives bring the tiny land to life in a way that is reverent but real. Though she tries to avoid what a friend terms "that Shangri-La-Di-Da business" and grapples with the poverty, sexism and political squabbles in Bhutan that bother her, there is little doubt that she sees the place in a largely positive light and is tempted to remain. In the end, Zeppa's is a lively tale of her earnest efforts to reconcile what she has learned with what she has known. (June)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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April 30, 2000
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