Date read: 07.07.2017. How strongly I recommend it: 7/10.
Typically I believe that the author’s audience consists of women, mostly mothers. However, her writing style is filled with enough creative expression to include an even broader demographic. Her use of robust vocabulary and articulate expression are commendable.
This book is an easy read—one that resembles your typical travel guides (only with a much more detailed description of local surroundings)—but one that promises little to learn along the way. It’s almost as if the author strapped a GoPro to her backpack, giving an over-the-shoulder view of her global travels. It’s a fun sort of travelogue, a weaving in and through the streets of Chiang Mai to Sydney, Beijing to Addis Ababa. My main frustration was that I could not find the overarching point of the story. The author says, “Parenting and global travel—I can’t think of a better mix.” Okay, agreed. Perhaps the plot and content are better articulated by the author’s following statement: “This world is huge; it is majestic; it is worth exploring just for the sake of knowing it.” The book was simply a glimpse of the author getting to know the world and the reader might be left scratching her head wondering at the point of the disjointed vignettes. Others, however, might simply enjoy these glimpses devoid of an overarching theme.
I must begin with this: I’m not sure that the author’s intention was to bring a new message to the table at all. The author says, “I wanted to sink into the unpredictability of a cross-cultural life, yes, but I also wanted a bona fide home.” Each story, each vignette, each country that the author and her family visited were simply recollected as they experienced them. Was there a main point to each story? None besides the (subtle) overarching theme, namely, “Everything here is unfamiliar, but it’s familiar. We are transient, vagabonds, and yet we’re tethered.” This lack of message clarity was frustrating for me. This might have led to a lower 10 point rating were it not for the following section.
Each chapter of this book is laced with creativity. The storyline may have a tendency to grow boring without an overarching goal, but the creative glimpses of broad boulevards and cobblestoned alleyways were refreshing. The author writes in natural reader-centric language, drawing you into each experience with her and her family. “Am I at home in the world?” she asks rhetorically. “Yes. Its waters and forests, megacities and villages, bus lines and bicycles make it feasible to find a reasonable escapade anywhere. When I travel, I’m at home in the world, so long as I’m with the people I love most.”
“I want to get lost in myself, I want to stop thinking so much of myself, and I want to see in the flesh how many people there are in the world and how many don’t know me or, really, care about me.” The author’s poetic prose and masterful use of language are some of the high points of this book. $10 words? Sure, there’s a few. A book that doesn’t elevate my vocabulary is not worth reading at all. I appreciated that. She goes on, “I want to remember my smallness. I want to be a prophet in the wilderness, shouting from jungles and deserts and foreign cities that we are all small, and to remember what a tiny place we each take up in the world. Small might be insignificant, but it does not mean unimportant.”
As a writer, I was impacted by the author’s creative style and silver-tongued ability to depict the multifarious sceneries of the world. “I long for God to show me where I belong, where my home is in the world, and my smallness in it.” Praiseworthy desire and an inspirational rumination to be sure. Her words were beautiful, her wit charming, her recollections both silly or introspective, depending upon the situation. This was the commendable aspect of the book. But again, a book that lacks a plot can become a burdensome read.
10 POINT RATING
I give At Home in the World a 7/10.