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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.
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.
Theresa R. (Sierra Madre, CA)
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.
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.
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.
John P. (Timonium, MD)
A trek through time
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."
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.
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.
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.
Katherine Y. (Albuquerque, NM)
More personal memoir than travel memoir
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.
While this book was well-written, I found it was too much of an internal journey and not as much of a travel memoir as I would have liked. Fans of more introspective memoirs will enjoy this one the most.