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EXPAT BOOK REVIEW: “Trucking in English” by Carolyn Steele

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Today we review Carolyn Steele’s Trucking in English: a memoir of being a woman in what is very much a man’s world: that of long-haul tractor-trailor driving in North America.  A Londoner born and bred, Carolyn is now a Canadian citizen and lives in Kitchener, Ontario, where she ran a Bed & Breakfast for five years before trying her hand at negotiating 18-wheelers. Depending on who is asking,  she “maintains that she is either multi-faceted or easily bored”. Confirming this, her résumé states that, in addition to being a lady trucker, she has also been a psychologist and a London Ambulance Service paramedic, while her hobbies include tatting, a form of lace-making.

Trucking in English is available from SmashwordsAmazon (Canada, USA, UK), and Barnes & Noble, but this week we at TDN are in luck: Carolyn is giving away 3 ebook copies to Displaced Nation readers! (Details below.)

TITLE: Trucking in English
AUTHOR: Carolyn Steele
AUTHOR’S CYBER COORDINATES:
Blog: Trucking in English
Website: Carolyn Steele
Twitter: @Trucking_Lady
Facebook: Trucking in English
PUBLICATION DATE: November 2012
FORMAT: Paperback, Ebook (Kindle)
GENRE: Memoir
SOURCE: Review copy from author

Amazon Summary:

“So here’s the plan. I’m going to train to drive a truck and go long-haul. I can get paid and maybe write a book at the same time. What do you reckon?” “Go for it Mum, how bad can it be?” This is the tale of what happens when a middle-aged mum from England decides to actually drive 18-wheelers across North America instead of just dreaming about it. From early training (when it becomes apparent that negotiating 18 wheels and 13 gears involves slightly more than just learning how to climb in) this rookie overcomes self-doubt, infuriating companions and inconsiderate weather to become a real trucker. She learns how to hit a moose correctly and how to be hijacked. She is almost arrested in Baltimore Docks and survives a terrifying winter tour of The Rockies. Nothing goes well, but that’s why there’s a book. Trucking in English began as a blog from the cab and became a popular podcast before taking book form. It is part of Carolyn’s ‘Armchair Emigration’ series.

Review:

“Why would a fifty-something, nicely brought-up mother suddenly decide to go trucking?”

Indeed. Until I read this book, I’d considered trucks to be part of the roads’ parallel universe: menacing beasts that slow you down going uphill, hurtle dangerously fast behind you downhill, or who scatter remnants of blown tires across three lanes, strategically positioned to rip open your door skins like sardine cans.

Carolyn Steele, however, has given me a glimpse inside this parallel universe, and I’ll say this: she’s braver than I’ll ever be.  If I announced to my own family my intention of learning to drive one of these shiny monsters, the reaction would be unflattering: “You?” (Cue gales of incredulous laughter.) “You can’t even reverse a Mini.”  I’m not one of Life’s natural drivers, which makes me all the more admiring of people who are, particularly “fifty-something, nicely brought-up mothers.”

Trucking in English starts at Carolyn’s pipe dream to become a truck driver:

Why not get paid to see North America? I’d driven for a living before, I’d seen little of Canada and nothing of the States, how hard could it be?

— takes us through the training period which was more demanding than she’d anticipated:

I’d assumed it was merely a matter of getting used to where the corners were and developing a technique for climbing in.

— and recounts Carolyn’s adventures once she was let loose on the road.

These long-haul expeditions across Canada and the USA are peppered with frustrations deriving from red tape (seriously — Campbell’s Chicken Soup requires a Customs’ Meat Inspection certificate before it can cross the border?) and the sexism, both unintentional and blatant, that a female truck driver will encounter.

Red-faced squaddie escorted us outside and managed not to look too confused when we [Carolyn and her male co-driver] headed for the wrong sides of our vehicle and it became horribly apparent that I was driving.

Throughout the book shines Carolyn’s good humor, frankness, and sense of the ridiculous.  The characters and events she encounters are described so vividly that they seemed as real to me as they were to her, and in such a way that I had to stifle snorts of laughter if I was reading my Kindle in a public place.

Finally, as March is Style and Beauty Month at TDN, it would be remiss of me not to share a few of Carolyn’s style tips for lady truck drivers:

1. Do not go anywhere without a large supply of baby wipes. You never know when or where your next shower will be.

2. Use a bathroom whenever you see one, even if you don’t need to. (Ever wondered what happens when truckers are taken short in the middle of nowhere during a Canadian blizzard?)

3. Most important of all — dress androgynously. Do not, under any circumstances, let other truck drivers on the road know you are a woman.

A chap in a slower truck does not like to be overtaken by a woman and some of them can get quite snippy about it…With a cap over my eyes (so long as it isn’t pink) hair tucked up into it, large sunglasses and a golf-shirt I can just about pass for anybody… I left the cap off one day due to being so hot that even my hair was sweating. Overtook a truck just south of Toledo and he tried extremely hard to run [me] off the road.

And now it’s your chance to ENTER OUR DRAW TO WIN A FREE  COPY!!!  You can either:

1) Leave a comment on this post, saying why you’d like your own copy of Trucking in English, or

2) Head across to Twitter and tweet the following:

“I want a copy of Trucking in English by Carolyn Steele: http://wp.me/p11cxT-55G via @Trucking_Lady @DisplacedNation”

Don’t forget, you double your chances if  you’re a Displaced Dispatch subscriber!!!

The winner will be announced in our Displaced Dispatch in April.

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STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s author interview!

Image: Book cover — “Trucking in English”

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BOOK REVIEW: “The Career Break Traveler’s Handbook” by Jeffrey Jung

careerbreak_coverThe author of today’s reviewed book, Jeff Jung, was one of our featured Random Nomads last May. We caught up with him again at Christmas, shortly after The Career Break Traveler’s Handbook was published.

TITLE: The Career Break Traveler’s Handbook
AUTHOR: Jeffrey Jung

AUTHOR’S CYBER COORDINATES:
Website: Career Break Secrets
Twitter: @Career BrkSecret
Other: Facebook page, YouTube channel
PUBLICATION DATE: October 2012

FORMAT: Paperback, Ebook (Kindle)
GENRE: Nonfiction, Travel
SOURCE: Review copy from author

Author Bio:

Host of the new global TV show, The Career Break Travel Show, and publisher of CareerBreakSecrets.com, Jeff Jung is the world’s leading career break expert. Originally from Fredericksburg, Texas, Jeff became an international traveler at the age of sixteen with his first trip to Australia and, when he left a successful marketing career for his own career break, became a “true citizen of the world.” He lives in Bogotá, Colombia.

Summary:

The Career Break Traveler’s Handbook is your indispensable tool for dreaming, planning, and finally taking your trip of a lifetime. Filled with tips, stories, and photos from around the world, the Career Break Traveler’s Handbook will both excite you and prepare you.”

(Source: Amazon.com book description)

Review:

Six years ago, Jeff Jung, like many other people, was experiencing dissatisfaction with corporate life.  Business trips abroad racked up frequent flyer miles and provided a temporary escape from the office cubicle and constant phone calls, but those were the only benefits of his adult experiences of travelling. Faced with years more of a work-life balance teetering heavily on the “work” side of the scale, Jeff wondered if he had 

“made a bargain with the devil, building a successful career while sacrificing a satisfying personal life?”

More to the point:

“How was I ever going to engage with the things that really mattered to me: time for myself, for my family and friends, time to pursue my personal passions?”

A throwaway question from two friends provided the catalyst he needed to do something about this unsatisfactory state of affairs.

“What’s it going to take to make you happy?”

In answer, Jeff quit his job four weeks later, although it was several months before he set off on his trip. Planning is all — which is where this book comes in. It’s one thing to dream about getting away from it all, and another thing to do it right.

Based on Jeff’s own experiences, plus those of other seasoned travelers, this book offers advice on aspects from the mundane (budgeting and saving for both the trip and your return, when you might be out of work for a while) to the slightly morbid (make a will; go through details of insurance and finance with a close family member or friend; appoint someone to have power of attorney). There are tips on emotional aspects, too: how to stop talking yourself out of this wild idea, or how to deal with people who, out of concern or jealousy, aren’t as enthusiastic about this adventure as you are.

As you would expect, much of the book covers advice on preparations and the trip itself, such as managing money on the road, dealing with unexpected loneliness, and adjusting to being free again. It also includes specific tips such as “White headphones are an unmistakable marker of an iPod. Replace them with black ones” which might not occur to you at the packing stage and won’t be much use occurring to you when a mugger is running away with your iPod and unsaved photographs.

The final part of the book deals with your return trip, your re-entry into your old life, and how you can turn that “dreaded résumé gap” to your advantage.

It’s worth noting, however, that after their life-changing travels many career-breakers — including the author — don’t re-enter their old life at all but instead make a new one.

Word of wisdom:

On persuading yourself:

You only get one shot at life. Are you really sure you can’t take less than 3 percent of your working life to do what you want to do, to reconnect with yourself and pursue personal passions?

On reasons for going:

This is not a time to run away. It’s a time to run to something.

TDN verdict:

With many companies starting to see the benefits in offering paid sabbaticals to their employees — nearly one-quarter of Fortune’s 2012 “Best 100 Companies To Work For” do so — career breaks, we hope, will become more common. This book will help you make the most of yours.

STAY TUNED for next week’s posts!

Image: Book cover — “The Career Break Traveler’s Handbook”

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BOOK REVIEW: “The Englishman” by Helena Halme

Today we are delighted to review Helena Halme’s book, The Englishman. Helena is a regular visitor to The Displaced Nation, where she has been featured both as a Random Nomad, and as Cleopatra For The Day. The Englishman is available from Amazon (UK and US) and for a limited time this week, is free to download as a Kindle ebook!

TITLE: The Englishman
AUTHOR: Helena Halme
AUTHOR’S CYBER COORDINATES:
Blog: Helena’s London Life
Twitter: @HelenaHalme
PUBLICATION DATE: August 2012
FORMAT: Ebook (Kindle)
GENRE: Fiction
SOURCE: Review copy from author

Author Bio:

Helena Halme grew up in Finland and Sweden, and left Finland for good when she married her English husband. She now lives in London. The Englishman is her first book.

Summary:

At the age of twenty, Kaisa has her life mapped out. After university in Helsinki, she’s going to marry her well-to-do fiancé, Matti, and live happily ever after. But in October 1980, she’s invited to a British Embassy cocktail party, and meets a dashing Naval officer. In the chilly Esplanade Park the Englishman and Kaisa share passionate, secret kisses and promise to meet up again. But they live thousands of miles apart – and Kaisa is engaged to be married.

At the height of the Cold War the Englishman chases Russian submarines whilst Kaisa’s stuck in a country friendly with the Soviet Union. Will their love go the distance?

(Source: Amazon.com book description)

Review:

The Englishman is semi-autobiographical, based on the author’s blog posts on How I came to be in England, which, after an enthusiastic response from readers, she was inspired to turn into a fully fledged novel.

It is a love story: the account of the long-distance romance between English Naval officer Peter and Finnish student Kaisa, as this star-crossed couple discovers that Shakespeare’s words are still true, even in the 1980s, and the course of true love never runs smooth. Together, they contend with a broken engagement, long separations, the Falklands War, inevitable cultural differences, and the small matter of a member of the British armed forces wanting to marry a citizen of a country bordering the Soviet Union.

No matter where you are from, or even if you and your partner are from the same cultural background – if you’ve ever been in a long-distance relationship, The Englishman will strike a chord. Loving from afar in the early 1980s was a different matter than it is now: no Skype, no Facebook, no texting, but instead the sweet agony of waiting for letters in the mail and for the landline telephone to ring. Kaisa and her Englishman remind us of the forgotten pleasures of delayed, rather than immediate, gratification.

TDN verdict:

Especially recommended for romantics who grew up listening to Chrissie Hynde and wearing leg warmers the first time they were in fashion.

“The Englishman” can be purchased from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com, and from October 8 – 12 is available to download free of charge.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s ghosty posty, a spooky Displaced Q from Tony James Slater!

Image: Book cover — “The Englishman”

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BOOK REVIEW: “The Elopement: A Memoir” by Dipika Kohli

TITLE: The Elopement
AUTHOR: Dipika Kohli
AUTHOR’S CYBER COORDINATES:
Website: kismuth.com
Twitter: @DipikaKohli
Kismuth on Facebook
PUBLICATION DATE: July 2012
FORMAT: Ebook (Kindle) available from Amazon
GENRE: Memoir
SOURCE: Review copy from author

Author Bio:

A former journalist, raised in America by her Indian parents, Dipika Kohli has previously lived in Japan and Ireland, and now lives in Durham, NC, with her husband and son. The third volume in her Kismuth series will be published in October 2012.

Summary:

When American-born Karin Malhotra elopes to Ireland with her college sweetheart, she botches the dreams her parents had for her when they left New Delhi with a stalwart philosophy on what a good life “ought” to be. “Opportunity,” her father said, “is in the U.S. That’s why we came.”

But finding herself in Ireland, juxtaposed in not one, but two additional cultures (her new husband is Japanese), Karin finds herself thinking about the early years of her own parents’ married lives, and wondering if, like her, they questioned their decision to leave everything familiar for the mere promise of a better life.

She tumbles headlong without any preparation into a small village in the corner of Ireland. Not only does she have to contend with a new suite of social mores, she wonders what it would have been like had she not quit home.

(Source: Amazon.com book description)

Review:

The Elopement is the second book in a four-part memoir series, Kismuth, which, in Hindi, means “destiny”. Karin’s grandmother defined destiny as:

We’re all meant to be someplace…And when we get there, wherever it is, that’s what’s supposed to happen.

This implies a passiveness about the process, a casting off of responsibility for our futures, yet many would argue that destiny is of our own making. You reap what you sow, is another way of putting it.

Karin Malhotra’s ambitious parents left Delhi in search for a new life, for better opportunities for them and their children. Sadly, by forcing their own ambitions onto Karin, they sowed what they would later reap: an unhappy daughter, rejecting her family’s strict expectations by following her heart and searching for her own “better opportunities”. Her interpretation of the phrase, unfortunately, did not agree with that of her parents, who refused even to acknowledge Karin’s relationship with Japanese boyfriend Yoshi.

Little wonder that, when Karin finds the acceptance from Yoshi’s parents that she never had from her own, elopement seems an attractive, fairytale-like option. But of course, everyone knows that not all fairytales have happy endings. And while it might be possible to create one’s own destiny, the lesson we can learn from this book is that it is folly to try to create someone else’s.

The Elopement is a fascinating read, beautifully and eloquently written. Dipika Kohli’s next book, The Dive, starts where The Elopement ends. I am already counting the days until its publication on October 10.

Notable quotes:

On being a TCK:

[My parents’] choices, and the consequences that arose, ought not affect my own. If they didn’t think the trade was worth it — the one where they gave up everything in a familiar context in India to take a chance on a new opportunity abroad — well, that wasn’t my problem, was it?

On interculteral relationships:

Our summer of trying out…this intercultural relationship thing, felt like wearing a happened-upon outfit I’d never imagined could fit, but thought, once in a while, why not break that one out? …This “once in a while” was about to become my new look.

On Ireland:

Ireland had the kinds of places and people that would make you stop what you were doing, and sit up and pay full attention, to the degree that you felt really aware and present, maybe for the first time in your life.

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STAY TUNED for Thursday’s post!

Image: Book cover – “The Elopement”

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BOOK REVIEW: “Expat Life Slice By Slice” by Apple Gidley

TITLE: Expat Life Slice by Slice
AUTHOR: Apple Gidley
AUTHOR’S CYBER COORDINATES:
Website: www.expatapple.com
Blog: my.telegraph.co.uk/applegidley
Twitter: @ExpatApple
PUBLICATION DATE: March 2012 (Summertime Publishers)
FORMAT: Ebook (Kindle) and Paperback, available from Amazon
GENRE: Memoir
SOURCE: Review copy from author

Author Bio:

Apple Gidley became an expat at the tender age of one month old, in Kano, Nigeria. Since her early initiation into global wandering, she has relocated 26 times through 12 countries, acquiring a husband and two children en route.

Apple is known to thousands as ExpatApple, through her popular blog at the Daily Telegraph.

Summary:

“From marauding monkeys to strange men in her bedroom, from Africa to Australasia to America, with stops in Melanesia, the Caribbean and Europe along the way, Apple Gidley vividly sketches her itinerant global life. The challenges of expatriation, whether finding a home, a job, or a school are faced mostly with equanimity. Touched with humour and pathos, places come alive with stories of people met and cultures learned, with a few foreign faux pas added to the mix.”

(Source: Amazon.com book description)

Review:

If anyone is qualified to issue advice on expat life, Apple Gidley is that person. Born to an English father and Australian mother, she takes the label “Serial Expat” to new heights.  She was a TCK before the term was invented (instead classed unflatteringly as an “expat brat”) and continued the global wandering throughout her adult life, with 26 relocations through 12 countries to date.

Her memoir provides fascinating reading, about places and lifestyles that most of us will never experience, and at times is almost anachronistic:  reading her reminiscences about servants, voluntary work, and charity committees, there’s a time warp sensation of stepping into a Somerset Maugham short story.

Although the book is a record of Apple’s patchwork life, most expats will relate to the emotional experiences she describes, no matter where in the world they are or  how many countries they’ve lived in. For example, we worry that leaving our family and friends behind will increase the emotional distance as well as the physical. After a while, we realise that this is mostly not the case, and that those who allow physical distance to become an obstacle weren’t so emotionally close in the first place. In Chapter 8, “Eighth Slice: Staying Connected”, she says:

As we age we draw closer still. We believe in family but do not see each other for years at a time, and yet we are all aware of where each of us is in the world, still scattered and testaments to a global upbringing.

In “Ninth Slice: Death at a Distance”, Apple deals with the elephant-in-the-room topic: the illness or death of a family member while we are thousands of miles away. During such times, it’s easy to beat ourselves up for choosing a nomadic lifestyle;  if our associated guilt trips were eligible for air miles, we could afford to fly back and forth to be with our loved ones as often as we wanted. In describing her own experiences of bereavement, Apple’s practical, matter-of-fact approach, plus her insights gleaned from other cultures’ attitudes to old age and death, reminds us that the old cliché of “life goes on” holds true, even after “death at a distance”.

Whether you’re a veteran expat, a re-pat, or are just about to embark upon your first move to another country, “Expat Life Slice By Slice” should be on your reading list.

Words of wisdom:

On TCKs:

For those children brought up as TCKs…a nonjudgmental and accepting attitude to different customs, colours and cultures is the norm. As this demographic grows, let’s hope for an even greater understanding of cultural differences for all our children.

On voluntary work:

Volunteering is work, sometimes harder than a paid position because it is the cause keeping you there and not the salary.

On making new connections:

Picking up people around the world to share your life with is one of the greatest pleasures in life, and sometimes you know straight away they will continue to stay in it.

On “Home”

Home is with me wherever I go…It is not a single building or a single country, but many of them.

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STAY TUNED for Wednesday’s post.

Image:  Book cover – “Expat Life Slice By Slice”

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BOOK REVIEW: “The Chalk Circle,” by Tara L. Masih, Ed.

TITLE: The Chalk Circle
AUTHOR: Tara L. Masih (Editor)
LITERARY AWARDS: 2012 Skipping Stones Honor Award
AUTHOR’S CYBER COORDINATES:
Website: www.taramasih.com
PUBLICATION DATE: May 2012 (Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing)
FORMAT: Ebook (Kindle) and Paperback
GENRE: Anthology/Autobiography
SOURCE: Review copy from author

Author Bio:

Tara L. Masih, a native of Long Island, N.Y., is the editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction (a ForeWord Book of the Year) and The Chalk Circle: Intercultural Prizewinning Essays, and the author of Where the Dog Star Never Glows: Stories (a National Best Books Award finalist). She has published fiction, poetry, and essays in numerous anthologies and literary magazines (including ConfrontationHayden’s Ferry ReviewNatural Bridge,The PedestalNight Train, and The Caribbean Writer); and several limited edition illustrated chapbooks featuring her flash fiction have been published by The Feral Press. Awards for her work include first place in The Ledge Magazine‘s fiction contest and Pushcart Prize, Best New American Voices, and Best of the Web nominations.

(Source: Author’s website)

Summary:

Award-winning editor Tara L. Masih put out a call in 2007 for intercultural essays dealing with the subjects of  “culture, race, and a sense of place.” The prizewinners are gathered for the first time in a ground-breaking anthology that explores many facets of culture not previously found under one cover. The powerful, honest, thoughtful voices — Native American, African American, Asian, European, Jewish, White — speak daringly on topics not often discussed in the open, on subjects such as racism, anti-Semitism, war, self-identity, gender, societal expectations.

(Source: Amazon.com book description)

Review:

I’ll be honest: anthologies are not what I head for when I enter a bookshop. My gripe is that the tales are too short, and that just as you are getting into the swing of a story, it ends.

This collection of real-life snapshots, on the other hand, is different. Like most other writers, I have an addiction to people-watching and surreptitious eavesdropping, so an anthology of confessions on multicultural issues, by prize-winning writers, is right up my alley.

Because of the book’s broad topic of “culture, race, and a sense of place,” the essay subjects range widely, as each writer offers his or her own perspective on the topic. Not all of the pieces are about living abroad in another country. One such essay, which also struck me as the most poignant, was “A Dash of Pepper in the Snow,” by Samuel Autman. An African-American who grew up in an all-black neighbourhood of St. Louis, Missouri, Autman became the first black reporter for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah during the early 1990s. His recollections of that time show, clearly, that one does not need to cross oceans to feel like a fish out of water in the worst possible way.

The essay that will probably strike the loudest chord with TDN readers is “Fragments: Finding Center,” by Sarah J. Stoner. An American-born writer who, until the age of 18, had never lived in the country of her passport but had grown up in Uganda, Morocco, Belgium, and Thailand, Stoner writes of her first days at college. This pivotal life experience also coincided with her first days of living in America, a country she can technically call “home” but which feels like anything but:

A pronounced British accent or status as an exchange student would work wonders for me in this moment. But my bland and unremarkable exterior offers no such grace. I appear deceptively American.

Because everyone’s experiences are unique, different essays will appeal to different readers. A solitary person myself, I was fascinated by “Connections,” by Betty Jo Goddard, in which the 78-year-old writer describes her isolated existence in Alaska, and her feelings about using modern technology to stay connected to the world.

Everyone, though, will be touched by “Tightrope Across the Abyss,” by Shanti Elke Bannwart, a woman born in Germany at the start of World War II. In this piece, Bannwart tells the story of her neighbor, Bettina Goering. Goering is the great-niece of Herman Göring, right-hand man of Adolf Hitler, who swallowed cyanide two hours before he was due to be hanged at Nuremberg. Her  struggles to reconcile herself with her Nazi ancestry have already been documented in the film Bloodlineswhere she “seeks redemption by facing Holocaust survivor and artist Ruth Rich in Sidney, Australia.” Bannwart, with her own 70-year burden of having a Nazi father decorated by Hitler, meets her neighbor Goering, and in doing so finds the nugget of peace and self-forgiveness that has evaded her for so long.

Words of wisdom:

On the convenience of the label “TCK”:

Yes. I’m a Third Culture Kid.

I was relieved to finally have a shortened version of, “Well, I am American but I never lived in America until college. I went to high school in Thailand and before that I lived in Belgium and then Morocco before that. Yes, I was born in the U.S., but we left for Uganda when I was seventeen days old.”

(From “Fragments: Finding Center,” by Sarah J. Stoner)

On getting to know a place:

Places are best soaked in through the tongue, sent stomach-ward, digested and incorporated into the body. To know a place is to visit local markets, order things with unpronounceable names, and eat street food no matter the time of day.

(From “Assailing Otherness” by Katrina Grigg-Saito)

On using technology to stay in touch:

Such connections [phone and email]…are available even to “hermits” living on a ridge-top at the end of nowhere. Are they needed? No. But they enrich my life. My life is full of potential connections.

(From “Connections,” by Betty Jo Goddard)

Verdict:

Although this anthology of autobiographical experiences is a slight departure from the usual books we review at Displaced Nation, it’s a valuable and high quality addition to our stable of “displaced reading.” The sheer variety of experiences depicted in the book means that all readers, wherever they hale from and wherever they are at present, will find something that resonates.

“The Chalk Circle” can be purchased here. 

STAY TUNED for Thursday’s trip to Woodhaven, where Libby is feeling more and more like an exhibit on  the Jerry Springer Show.

Image:  Book cover – “The Chalk Circle”

If you enjoyed this post, we invite you to register for The Displaced Dispatch, a round up of weekly posts from The Displaced Nation, with seasonal recipes, book giveaways and other extras. Register for The Displaced Dispatch by clicking here!

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