To the Moon and Timbuktu: Book summary and reviews of To the Moon and Timbuktu by Nina Sovich

To the Moon and Timbuktu

A Trek through the Heart of Africa

By Nina Sovich

To the Moon and Timbuktu

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About this book

Book Summary

This lyrical memoir will transport you to the breathtaking landscapes of West Africa, whose stark beauties will instill wonder in even the most experienced traveler. Sovich's journey reveals that sometimes we must pursue that distant glimmer on the horizon in order to find the things we value most.

Nina Sovich had always yearned for adventures in faraway places; she imagined herself leading the life of a solitary traveler. Yet at the age of thirty-four, she found herself married and contemplating motherhood. Catching her reflection in a window spotted with Paris rain, she no longer saw the fearless woman who spent her youth travelling in Cairo, Lahore, and the West Bank staring back at her. Unwittingly, she had followed life's script, and now she needed to cast it out.

Inspired by female explorers like Mary Kingsley, who explored Gabon's jungle in the 1890s, and Karen Blixen, who ran a farm in Kenya during World War I, Sovich packed her bags and hopped on the next plane to Africa in search of adventure.

To the Moon and Timbuktu takes readers on a fast-paced trek through Western Sahara, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, bringing their textures and flavors into vivid relief. On Sovich's travels, she encounters rough-and-tumble Chinese sailors, a Venezuelan doctor working himself to death in Chinguetti, indifferent French pensioners RVing along the coast, and a close-knit circle of Nigerien women who adopt her into their fold, showing her the promise of Africa's future.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A deeply personal journey into an incredibly remote region. Sovich casts her polished journalistic eye on the anguish and sublime beauty she encounters while unflinchingly narrating her own intensely intimate journey." - Publishers Weekly

"While her stories are moving and the scenery is as beautifully caught as with a camera, Sovich reaches for spiritual life lessons that fail to ring true." - Kirkus

"In her astute travel memoir, Sovich examines the dilemma so many women face: how to choose between a life of domesticity and one of adventure. An engaging, suspenseful, deeply philosophical anatomy of the process of making - and making peace with - life's major choices." - Rosemary Mahoney, More Magazine

"To the Moon and Timbuktu traverses the wide open expanses of the desert and the interior labyrinths of the travelling id with a lyrical, wonderful and heartfelt generosity of spirit. Nina Sovich is a new kind of travel writer: honest, open and brave. Here are the soaring vistas and the warm funny details that would draw us all to the open road and up-and-down adventures along the way. I loved every page." - Wendell Steavenson, writer for The New Yorker and author of Stories I Stole

"Nina Sovich's spare, uninhibited writing blasts through journalistic cliches. There are sentences that recall Andre Gide's The Immoralist. Her soaring description of the Niger River in Mali is exactly as I experienced it. Her description of Mauritania's utter desolation makes me want to go there." - Robert D. Kaplan, author of The Revenge of Geography "In reading To the Moon and Timbuktu I constantly had to fight off the call to pack up my suitcases and book the next flight to Bhutan, Iceland or Laos. Nina Sovich's luscious, intelligent and deeply philosophical memoir of a solo trip to the almost-mythical land of Timbuktu reminds me of my own wild side. She is the perfect companion to this faraway place—equal parts questing, compassionate, graceful and literary. She reminds us that it is in exploration that we find freedom, humanity and our true selves again."—Alison Singh Gee, author of Where the Peacock Sings: A Palace, a Prince, and the Search for Home

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Liz C. (Kalamazoo, MI)
To the Moon and Timbuktu
Although there were many intriguing scenarios in To the Moon and Timbuktu, and the author's descriptions of West Africa were often captivating, my overall impression of Sovich's memoir is unremarkable. Had I been able to make a more emotional connection with the author I may have enjoyed it more. I was much less interested in her personal and emotional journey than her travels in Africa, and for me, too much of her focus was on her inner journey.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Lora O. (Antioch, CA)
Yearning for Timbuktu
I thought this book was the most wonderful memoir on solitary travel by a woman since Robyn Davidson's "Tracks". This is the first account I ever read of someone who is not enamored of life of a young married woman in Paris - the author needed to be on her own, to challenge herself and to find the world. Her journey was enthralling on every page - this is not the fluff of Wild or Eat Pray Love, but difficult travel through some of the harshest areas of the world, in terms of climate and politics. While the author does look within, examining her own life and goals, she is also directed outward toward the people she meets. Her plan of action is to find the women, and follow them, for safety and their stories. The conditions of western Africa, the poverty, aridity, lack of amenities, human rights and amenities are unimaginable to me, yet she uncovers and describes the beauty and the remarkable stories of everyone she meets.

This book spoke strongly to me about the need for a woman to make it on her own, to find her own strength and to discover the world through her own eyes. I loved her stories of the Victorian traveler Mary Kingsly and other travelers in this remote region in the past. This book made me want to follow in her footsteps and moved me so much. Every year, I try to find one remarkable book to give to my friends at holiday time. I have already ordered several copies of this one to share.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Theresa R. (Sierra Madre, CA)
Good Book
Loved the author's writing style, which made the book flow easily. There aren't too many authors that can make you actually "see" the places they are describing, but she was able to do that. I am not usually one to enjoy memoirs, but this was a good read and one I would definitely recommend for book clubs.

Rated 3 of 5 of 5 by Carolyn V. (Douglass, KS)
From the Moon to Timbuktu
I'm not sure what I think of To the Moon and Timbuktu by Nina Sovich. The writing was pleasant and readable in this memoir of the author's travel through western Africa. The insight into the countries where Nina traveled was revealing because those are areas that do not have a lot of 'personal 'written about them. I share Nina's interest in Mary Kinsley and other early explorers and appreciated her research. The part of the memoir that bothers me is the risks Nina took in her travels. I laud her adventurous spirit in traveling alone, but am unsettled by the risks she took.

An example of the writing in To the Moon and Timbuktu.
"I remember thinking in Paris that I would pour African into me like some kind of magic elixir. Then I would be seen. Then I would exist."

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by John P. (Timonium, MD)
A trek through time
The author takes us on a journey through some very undeveloped areas and reminds us to look carefully at our surroundings and in that to appreciate what we yearn for and realize what we have. An entertaining and interesting trip through West Africa that will make you want to visit the country.

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Molly B. (Longmont, CO)
The Feel of Travel
Sovich is one brave woman and offers us honest explanations of the motives and motivations for her extreme travel. They are understandable, if you have ever traveled on your own. There is appeal to being so in-the-moment and slowed down that when the little store selling Fanta is unexpectedly closed, you sit down to wait, and two hours pass before you consider leaving. The restlessness, the appreciation of the loveliest aspects of African life, the lack of personal care, the proximity to losing self and sanity, the unbelievably understanding husband – all these are parts of a great and haunting story.

...16 more reader reviews

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More Information

More Information

Over the past decade, Nina Sovich has written for The Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, TIME, Fortune Small Business, and The Patriot Ledger. Most recently she was a wire reporter at Dow Jones and then at Reuters in Paris where she covered everything from fashion shows to banking reform. Visit her at www.thesestolendays.com/nina-sovich

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