Rated of 5
by Elizabeth W. (Newton, MA)
Lyricism and candor on a journey to Timbuktu
In To The Moon and Timbuktu, Nina Sovich writes of two type of journeys: her physical journeys to Africa and her psychological journey through the first years of her marriage as she came to terms with living an "ordinary" life in Paris with her husband.
Ms. Sovich writes movingly and well. She creates wonderful pictures of her struggles to get through the countryside, the people she meets, and her feelings as she comes to know them. She also provides enough background and history for her readers to understand the import of what she experiences.
As the author describes her relationship with her mother in her childhood, it seems somewhat distant (although she does pattern herself as a traveler after her mother). On the other hand, her relationships with the African women she comes to know are wonderfully close and warm. They clearly are the high points of her visits to Africa, and, thus, her descriptions of them become the best parts of her book. In her descriptions of the writing of Mary Kingsley and Karen Blixen, she seems to feel a similar closeness to them. Her discussion of their writing led me to decide to go back to re-read Out of Africa and to discover Travels in West Africa for the first time. (The bibliography that the author includes at the end of the book is most helpful for further reading.)
Ms. Sovich's candor about her feelings is both refreshing and startling at times. More than once, I thought her brave to be analyzing her deepest feelings during some of her most vulnerable states while knowing that her husband and other family members would be reading about them.
The book is a combination of travelogue, memoir, and psychological analysis. As Ms. Sovich looks back on her African adventure and sums up how it has prepared her for her life with a child in Paris, she writes about the toughness it created in her, the ability to withstand boredom while dealing with a fussy child, and the ability to live with less, it seems strange to remember that the writer still is in her thirties. I found myself thinking of all the years that lie ahead of her and some of the experiences that she may encounter and wondering whether it it's not too early for some of her philosophizing and whether some of her analysis might not be a little too pat. Nonetheless, I would not give back any of the journey with Ms. Sovich, and I would recommend that others travel in Africa with her, too.