TO TIMBUKTU

Heading into adulthood from the younger end of Eat, Pray, Love territory, two young college grads with itchy feet take most of a double wanderjahr to test their coupledom overseas. In quick, good-humored black-and-white sketches that occupy at least half of nearly every page, Weinberg not only evokes a sense of place in depicting apartments and street scenes but displays an unusual ability to capture fleeting expressions, poses and the emotional tenor of momentary encounters. The two build funds of self-confidence teaching English to children in Beijing, dawdle their way through Southeast Asia, then settle in Mali for most of a year for a Fulbright-funded research project. Occasional brushes with police, illness and hostile locals or disenchanted fellow travelers aside, Scieszka maintains an upbeat tone in her episodic, present-tense travelogue—noting the destructive effects of politics, poverty and tourism but focusing on the pleasures of new friends, new foods, adapting to local conditions, being grownups (“It’s liberating! It’s…full of pressure”) and finding reasons to get “out of bed on the other side of the world even when it’s raining, you haven’t made any friends yet and you’ve got the travel shits like whoa.” Newly fledged adults (and even those with plenty of mileage under their wings) will find both entertainment and perhaps a dollop of inspiration. (Travel memoir. 16 & up, adult)

Pub Date: March 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59643-527-8

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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Skilled and graceful exploration of the soul of an astonishing human being.

MOUNTAINS BEYOND MOUNTAINS

Full-immersion journalist Kidder (Home Town, 1999, etc.) tries valiantly to keep up with a front-line, muddy-and-bloody general in the war against infectious disease in Haiti and elsewhere.

The author occasionally confesses to weariness in this gripping account—and why not? Paul Farmer, who has an M.D. and a Ph.D. from Harvard, appears to be almost preternaturally intelligent, productive, energetic, and devoted to his causes. So trotting alongside him up Haitian hills, through international airports and Siberian prisons and Cuban clinics, may be beyond the capacity of a mere mortal. Kidder begins with a swift account of his first meeting with Farmer in Haiti while working on a story about American soldiers, then describes his initial visit to the doctor’s clinic, where the journalist felt he’d “encountered a miracle.” Employing guile, grit, grins, and gifts from generous donors (especially Boston contractor Tom White), Farmer has created an oasis in Haiti where TB and AIDS meet their Waterloos. The doctor has an astonishing rapport with his patients and often travels by foot for hours over difficult terrain to treat them in their dwellings (“houses” would be far too grand a word). Kidder pauses to fill in Farmer’s amazing biography: his childhood in an eccentric family sounds like something from The Mosquito Coast; a love affair with Roald Dahl’s daughter ended amicably; his marriage to a Haitian anthropologist produced a daughter whom he sees infrequently thanks to his frenetic schedule. While studying at Duke and Harvard, Kidder writes, Farmer became obsessed with public health issues; even before he’d finished his degrees he was spending much of his time in Haiti establishing the clinic that would give him both immense personal satisfaction and unsurpassed credibility in the medical worlds he hopes to influence.

Skilled and graceful exploration of the soul of an astonishing human being.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-50616-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2003

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A grim but worthy read.

A CAVE IN THE CLOUDS

A YOUNG WOMAN'S ESCAPE FROM ISIS

This book chronicles the traumatic story of Ahmed, a young Ezidi woman who was abducted by Islamic State group forces from her village in northern Iraq and subsequently forced into sexual slavery.

Ahmed’s ordeal began at age 18, when IS’ army rolled into her native village of Kocho, thwarting her family’s attempt to seek refuge in the surrounding mountains. The village population was promptly split between the men, driven to an unknown fate, and the women and children, rounded up in a nearby school before being forced aboard trucks heading to neighboring Syria. Months of captivity in the most extreme conditions ensued before she was finally sold—alongside Navine, a friend met in captivity, and her nephew, Eivan, who she pretended was her son—to al-Amriki, an American citizen–turned-emir, a high-ranking position in IS’ military hierarchy. In a succession of fortunate circumstances and bold decisions, the trio managed to escape, first from the compound where they were held captive, and then from Syria toward a Turkish refugee camp. Ahmed, reunited with what was left of her family, attempted to heal her wounds and rebuild her life. The first-person narration provides important context for those unfamiliar with the Ezidi. Readers will find it hard not to empathize and be moved by Ahmed’s heart-wrenching ordeal and will likely forgive some of the book’s naïve essentialisms, plot holes, and unfortunate Eurocentrisms.

A grim but worthy read. (authors’ note, map, epilogue) (Nonfiction. 16-adult)

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77321-235-7

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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