It’s clear from Forman’s travelogue that globalization isn’t just about Starbucks’ spreading from Boulder to Bangkok. It’s also about the unexpected subcultures that form when worlds collide: Tanzanians who rap like Vanilla Ice, Tongan transvestites who take their cues from the Miss America pageant, an Anglo family in India competing for spots in Bollywood films. While Forman, a self-proclaimed “weird girl,” discovers a common bond among outcasts worldwide, she also finds that her relationship with her globe-hopping companion-husband Nick-is falling apart. This is travel through a secret side door; lucky us, we get to go along.

-Lorraine Ali, Newsweek

Publishers Weekly

In Kazakhstan, a dedicated group of Tolkien readers pretend to be the Hobbits of Middle Earth. In China, a doctor attempts to cure cancer by creating a comprehensive book of English slang. In Zanzibar, Vanilla Ice–influenced hip-hop is the reigning musical genre. Journalist Forman set off with her husband on a year-long international journey, determined to find these and other offbeat cultural tidbits. From Tonga to Amsterdam, Forman “planned to experience these exotic countries through the eyes of those on the margins… to see if our otherness would bind us.” Her account is a richly woven narrative that highlights a single person or group of people from each country, whether the Lemba of South Africa (Jews descended from one of the lost tribes of Israel) or the fakaleiti of Tonga (not-quite male/not-quite female transvestites)…. She sets her book apart… by sharing glimpses into her personal life. Traveling for a year with her husband is no honeymoon—at times the two seem on the verge of divorce—and while Forman doesn’t tie up the loose ends of her relationship satisfactorily, those personal details give her memoir a center and put more at stake for Forman. Armchair travelers will be sated by these smart, well-written tales.

Library Journal

Award-winning journalist Forman is a world traveler married to Nick, a librarian struck by wanderlust. When Nick suggests a year of travel, Forman agrees, with some trepidation and conditions: they start at the beach, maintain their separate space, and spend long periods in one place. This is Forman’s story of their fascinating adventure: searching for Tolkienists in Kazakhstan; learning about the Lemba, the Jewish population in Africa; and exploring the subculture of the cross-dressing fakaleiti in Tonga. Throughout, Forman seeks out connections with those on the fringes of society, reveling in the relationships she is able to forge. Her husband, conversely, enjoys days in the bar and prefers North American society, causing some friction. Traveling together and separately, they fight and make up, learn how to deal with the new tensions this trip brings, and eventually return to New York City closer than before. All of this is packaged in a personal, engrossing description of a year of adventure and education. Recommended for larger public libraries.

—Alison Hopkins, Brantford P.L., Ont. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Budget Travel

Gayle Forman is the kind of person you wish would sit next to you on an airplane: She knows how to tell a story, and more important, she knows how to listen. I love You Can’t Get There from Here.

—Erik Torkells, Budget Travel

More praise…

“This compulsively readable (self-professed) Weird Girl’s round-the-shrinking-world travelogue is jam-packed with trenchant observations, drama, pathos, and humor. In countries as far-flung as Tonga and Kazakhstan, she befriends fellow outsiders: island shemales, mountain medievalists, street urchins, Bollywood extras, a tribe of African Jews, enterprising prostitutes. Although the world is shrinking, it’s clearly still filled with wonders, and wherever Gayle Forman is going next, I want to read about it.”

—Kate Christensen, author of In the Drink and The Epicure’s

“Gayle Forman has swallowed the world, whole, and come back to tell this often witty, sometimes poignant, always interesting tale.”

—Deborah Copaken Kogan, author of Shutterbabe

“Blending wonderful travel writing with insights on the effects of globalization, this is a great romp of a read with a social conscience.”

—Mitch Gaslin, Food for Thought Books, Amherst, MA

“…the story of Nick and Gayle in transition is a page turner. I don’t think I’ve read another travel book that analyzes, with such brutal
honesty, the way intense travel can turn lovers into enemies… and back into lovers.” (read full article)

—Marjorie Ingall, Forward Newspaper

Chosen as a Booksense Pick for April 2005.

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