About the Book:
Lisa looks as if she has it made. She has turned her nomadic childhood and forensic psychology training into a successful career as a stress management trainer for humanitarian aid workers. She lives in Los Angeles, travels the world, and her first novel has just been published to some acclaim. But as she turns 31, Lisa realizes that she is still single, constantly on airplanes, and increasingly wondering where home is and what it really means to commit to a person, place, or career. When an intriguing stranger living on the other side of the world emails her out of the blue, she must decide whether she will risk trying to answer those questions. Her decision will change her life.
I forget how I stumbled across Lisa's blog, but earlier this year I checked it out and really enjoyed her writing. So when I found out she had written a book, of course I wanted to read it. Detailing the life and times of a single gal living in Los Angeles, California who starts emailing this guy living in Papua New Guinea. Yes, this is Lisa and Mike's true story. Lisa's family has lived in several different countries (and her parents now reside in Australia), so it was natural for her when she decided on humanitarian work. "A passion for international humanitarian work was born the year my family moved to Bangladesh and I asked, with the innocence of a sheltered seven-year-old, whether God had run out of money halfway around the world." Humanitarian work is more than enough to keep you well occupied and unable to worry about other things. But having turned 31 and still single, it did sting a little bit to be unmarried. In order to understand how Lisa reaches the point of being willing to email this stranger, you have to understand where Lisa came from. Lisa's past is interspersed with moments taking place in the present. There are no official chapters in the book, just pauses to tell you what city and country you're reading about now. It may sound confusing, but it's really not! So Lisa details her past, how she ended up in the position of stress management trainer for humanitarian aid workers, and how that past shaped who she is today. There is much about humanitarian work that breaks your heart, but Lisa tells these stories very well. She's an excellent writer, able to hold your attention and make you laugh even in the midst of suffering people. So while Lisa finds her footing in L.A., Mike is an aid worker now living in Papua New guinea. A friend of his sees some of Lisa's essays she'd written and emails them to Mike. Intrigued by her writing (and her picture he saw on her website), he proceeds to email Lisa, who is quite shocked to say the least! Yet something about his letter seems different and fascinates her so she writes back, and thus is the start of a very long distant relationship (an 18 hour time difference!). We read some of the emails sent back and forth and what ups and downs each were going through emotionally and physically. By the time they meet in person three months later, it doesn't take long to establish that they are now officially dating. Of course they still live in two different countries, so all is not rainbows and roses from here on. Their story is so fun and engaging, as you watch these two people fall in love.
Reading about someone's love story when you know how it ends up may not sound exciting to you. And it's true that this isn't a tense, edge-of-your-seat type of story. But Lisa is such a wonderful writer and the stories she has to tell, regarding life in all these different countries and the people who live there, are amazing. It doesn't feel like just another memoir. If you have any interest at all in learning about humanitarian work, or even just love a good love story, this book is definitely worth picking up. You'll laugh a lot and cry a little and end up with warm fuzzies! :)
Some favorite passages (beware, I have several!):
"I began to relearn that important lesson I first grasped at sixteen when we moved back to the United States and I convinced my entire class that in Zimbabwe we'd occasionally ridden elephants to school and summered in a giant treehouse: Other people will believe almost anything if you say it with enough confidence and conviction. It's just that I had always thought that being a "grown-up" would mean actually feeling that confidence. By the time I landed in Kenya, I was starting to think it just meant being better at pretending."
"Hope chases us. Sometimes it seems that hope could do with a lengthy course of steroids. Perhaps then it might stand a fighting chance in the footrace with despair."
"Even with Tony's help," I wrote to Mike later that night, "it took us another ten minutes and several near-hernias to get the cabinet up the stairs and through my door, but it was totally worth it. Who needs predictable new furniture when you can have furniture with a back story? Who even needs a TV inside a cabinet that already hints at whole other worlds removed from the mundane in this one - worlds of snow and crocuses, danger and sacrifice, adventure and valor? No, I'm convinced that this cabinet will make me a better writer, indeed a better person. It is, after all, a gateway to Narnia. And you can never have too many of those in your life."
"I stood up, tucking my book away and throwing the rest of my coffee into the trash. I knew it would probably be at least another thirty minutes before Mike cleared customs, but I couldn't sit still any longer. I found a spot across from the door that he would walk out of, leaned against a pillar, and started to scan every Caucasian male emerging from customs who looked somewhere between twenty and fifty. Either men look at me far more than I usually notice or there was something strange about the intensity of my own scrutiny that day, because in the forty-five more minutes it took for Mike to walk out those doors, more than a handful of men caught my gaze and returned it with a direct and purposeful intensity of their own that I found very confusing.....By the time Mike actually appeared, I'd nearly hugged two strangers and I was pretty sure I was breaking out in hives."
(Sorry for so many quotes but this book is chock full of them and I couldn't pick just one!)
Toodle-loo kangaroos! Happy reading!