Some people categorize Rosemary Mahoney as a travel writer, but she is much more than that label suggests. Her intellectual curiosity, fearlessness, and ability to craft beautiful prose, along with her uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time, have led to her success.
Her first adventure occurred when she was seventeen and sent a letter to her idol playwright Lillian Hellman, asking for a summer job. What she thought would be a summer sitting at the feet of her mentor ended up with her being a servant to a rude woman.
Mahoney's memoir of this summer is titled, A Likely Story; One Summer with Lillian Hellman, and while reviewers praised her writing, some people criticized her for invading Hellman's privacy. But Mahoney does not blame Hellman completely, she takes her share of the blame for her naïve, youthful expectations.
The year prior to the Tianamen Square protests in China, Mahoney had the fortune to be involved in a teacher exchange between Harvard and Hangzhou University. The Early Arrival of Dreams; A Year in China, her account of this year, was named a New York Times Notable Book.
Mahoney was able to give readers a first-hand account of how the Communist Party persecuted intellectuals, and how the tensions grew that year into the protests that the entire world watched unfold the next year. She was in the right place at the right time, and her book gives insight into this difficult period in modern Chinese history.
Whoredom in Kimmage; The World of Irish Women was also named a New York Times Notable Book, as well as a National Book Award finalist. Mahoney visited Ireland to study the role of women in a changing Irish society. She visited small pubs in rural Ireland, a lesbian pub in Dublin, schoolgirls, a Legion of Mary meeting, and the first female president of Ireland.
Religious pilgrims are the focus of The Singular Pilgrim; Travels on Sacred Ground, a book that looks at Mahoney's quest to visit religious shrines to discover the beliefs of modern pilgrims. Among other trips, she walks the five-hundred-mile Camino de Santiago in Spain, rows the Sea of Galilee, and bathes in the waters of Lourdes.
All of her books are described on her website, rosemarymahoney.org, where she also shares photos from her trip to Egypt to row down the Nile. These photos are gorgeous and add greatly to the enjoyment of her book, but it would have been more informative if they were labeled.
This article is from the November 12, 2008 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.
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