Summary and book reviews of The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost

The Sex Lives of Cannibals

Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific

By J. Maarten Troost

The Sex Lives of Cannibals
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  • Paperback: Jun 2004,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

The laugh-out-loud true story of a harrowing and hilarious two-year odyssey in the distant South Pacific island nation of Kiribati—possibly The Worst Place on Earth.

At the age of twenty-six, Maarten Troost—who had been pushing the snooze button on the alarm clock of life by racking up useless graduate degrees and muddling through a series of temp jobs—decided to pack up his flip-flops and move to Tarawa, a remote South Pacific island in the Republic of Kiribati. He was restless and lacked direction, and the idea of dropping everything and moving to the ends of the earth was irresistibly romantic. He should have known better.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals tells the hilarious story of what happens when Troost discovers that Tarawa is not the island paradise he dreamed of. Falling into one amusing misadventure after another, Troost struggles through relentless, stifling heat, a variety of deadly bacteria, polluted seas, toxic fish—all in a country where the only music to be heard for miles around is "La Macarena." He and his stalwart girlfriend Sylvia spend the next two years battling incompetent government officials, alarmingly large critters, erratic electricity, and a paucity of food options (including the Great Beer Crisis); and contending with a bizarre cast of local characters, including "Half-Dead Fred" and the self-proclaimed Poet Laureate of Tarawa (a British drunkard who’s never written a poem in his life).

With The Sex Lives of Cannibals, Maarten Troost has delivered one of the most original, rip-roaringly funny travelogues in years—one that will leave you thankful for staples of American civilization such as coffee, regular showers, and tabloid news, and that will provide the ultimate vicarious adventure.

Chapter 1

In which the Author expresses some Dissatisfaction with the State of his Life, ponders briefly prior Adventures and Misfortunes, and with the aid of his Beguiling Girlfriend, decides to Quit the Life that is known to him and make forth with all Due Haste for Parts Unknown.

One day, I moved with my girlfriend Sylvia to an atoll in the Equatorial Pacific. The atoll was called Tarawa, and should a devout believer in a flat earth ever alight upon its meager shore, he (or she) would have to accept that he (or she) had reached the end of the world. Even cartographers relegate Tarawa either to the abyss of the crease or to the far periphery of the map, assigning to the island a kindly dot that still manages to greatly exaggerate its size. At the time, I could think of no better destination than this heat-blasted sliver of coral. Tarawa was the end of the world, and for two years it became the center of mine.

It is the nature of books such as these--the travel, adventure...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

Troost is a writer to rival Bill Bryson, although less structured and more rambling. Having said that, his writing style, with long meandering sentences sometimes running on for 3-4 lines, is one that people will either love or hate. But don't be mistaken into thinking that this is a superficial book - there's considerable substance beneath the humor.  

Media Reviews
Barnes & Noble

A brilliant comic writer, Troost paints crowded, polluted Tarawa in such compassionate detail that it's not a complete surprise when, after a couple of years back in the States working in well-paid, more comfortable environs, he and Sylvia decide to again brave paradise.

Publishers Weekly

Troost's chronicle of his sojourn in a forgotten world is a comic masterwork of travel writing and a revealing look at a culture clash.

Booklist - Jerry Eberle

...a hilarious, sardonic travelogue.....Troost's mystified admiration for the I-Kiribati people shines through it all, and readers learn how humor itself can be a necessary tool for survival.

Reader Reviews
Lynn

This book was read by my book club. Although the beginning was a bit long-winded, and one person found the humor in that first part too sarcastic, as a whole we all loved it. It had humor, travelogue, daily life and history all woven into a fun ...   Read More

wendy

A real page turner... funny, interesting and entertaining!

Marc

Great and funny read!!!!!!!

Anna

I thought this book was hilarious! The scenes he writes about are easily imagined and often very comical. He honestly captures the harsh beauty and stark realities of island life. As one of the few Americans who has also travelled to the "end ...   Read More

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