You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Books- nonfiction’ category.

Well, well! It’s been a little while since I last wrote, sorry about that. Life happens in the meantime 🙂  I managed to get a job, albeit a crappy one, but it pays me nonetheless. And I still have my research job, so life on the financial side of things is looking up. And did I mention we’re into October now? One month closer to my husband coming home and getting back to normal. One day at a time…

With a new job and more research than usual in the past week or so, I haven’t had much time to read. I did, however, manage to finish a non-fiction travel memoir about a couple who decides to up and move to the rainforest in Brazil. The book is Where the Road Ends, by Binka le Breton. I found it in the new books section of the library, and of course since I’ve been feeling pretty heartsick for the way my life used to be, the title was very appealing to me. I’m also up for travel memoirs pretty much any time, but this is the first I’ve read about Brazil or about farming in the rainforest. I was pretty excited and didn’t know what to expect of it.

Now, most of the travel writing that I’ve read thus far has been about an extended trip and finding yourself, lessons learned on the road and how perspective of home changes upon return, that sort of thing. This book, however, is about picking up your life and moving to a new lifestyle and career and existence in a place you are only mildly familiar with. Having come back from a failed work venture in Asia so recently, I could both identify with such a premise and feel mystified by it. I, too, sought a new career and lifestyle abroad, but I never had the intention of staying permanently. No, to be quite honest I was already thinking of returning before the year was up before I even left. I was interested to see what prompted them to make the move and then stay. That’s the key. Staying.

It turned out that the couple is quite international, having raised two children in many different countries. They had already experienced a lot of the world, both together and as individuals. Another part of their background as a family that is not really brought to the reader’s attention but which becomes glaringly obvious is that these people are quite wealthy. Does this matter? Well, it makes it difficult to relate to what they’re doing because the situation is vastly different from the two times I moved abroad. I do find it incredible that they went from such a comfortable, seemingly stable lifestyle in the USA to rural Brazil, which offers very little in the way of comforts from home- and from the sounds of it, they probably had some pretty cushy comforts back home! I think they are some of the most adventurous people I’ve ever heard of for doing that.

I really loved the descriptions of the land and how they started farming. I suppose I’ve always somewhat held on to the idea that farming is a romantic way of life, getting back to the land and all that. But of course, I’m from the country and I’ve always loved gardening and camping and general outdoor activities.  There is very little insight into the kinds of things the writer and her husband did that would lead to a decision like this, although I would imagine they had some “roughing-it” experience. Throughout the book, you do get glimpses of bits of experiences that may have led them to embark on such an adventure, such as Binka’s husband having been raised in Kenya. I’m both jealous of and mystified by their exotic pasts, haha.

While the farming and dealing with living in what seems to be a third-world shack are tough enough, their situation becomes a lot more dangerous (and thus for the reader exciting) once the local politics rear their ugly head.  Suddenly they are thrown into the world of land wars and pistoleiros, family vendettas and old murders. I really wonder if they realized that that kind of situation was possible before they moved there. As I sit here in a safe, peaceful bedroom, a life of hoping a pistoleiro doesn’t show up on my doorstep to get revenge seems pretty far from my realm of existence. And trust me, I’m pretty happy about that! I do wonder if any of those elements were exaggerated- not because I feel she is an unreliable narrator, but because I can’t imagine staying in a place where I know I have enemies who dislike me enough to come to my house toting guns. Keeping in mind that she had mixed feelings about moving there in the first place, I’m very surprised that she didn’t just say “That’s it! I’m out of here!” God knows I would have.

Towards the end of the book, the writer and her husband begin to get more involved in the local political and economic scene. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about the last 25% or so of the book because of these goings-on. I understand that she had lived there for a year or two by that point, but she seems to be digging her heels in deep considering she hadn’t even applied for citizenship as her husband had by that point- at least not that was revealed in the book. It seemed like in that last quarter of the book, she really gains momentum as far as things that she decides to try to change about the situation there. I have to wonder how this was truly received by the local population, from an unbiased point of view. I’m wary of this on a personal level because, as a linguist, in any research that I conduct, I have to be very careful to not alter any local issues, which can be difficult when working with a community. Linguists, particularly years ago when minority languages were beginning to be discovered, came and forced their own agenda on the local people. Though well-intentioned, this at times causes a split in the community and they become more fractured than before. I worry, and perhaps needlessly so, that a foreign couple with money bags moving to such a small community like that might have somewhat the same effect. I certainly hope not. I would be curious to find out about how things have gone since then as they are reportedly still living there. That aside, I enjoyed the colorful cast of characters, made up of both friends and enemies, that appear throughout the book. I also found the flow to be pretty good, although personally I would like to have a more definite time frame so I knew how long certain things took, like building the house and settling in. But it brought the setting and people to life for me, which is what I really want out of a travel narrative.

Bottom line: A good read. Great for travel writing fans.