In this delightful hybrid of a book—part memoir and part travel journal—the bestselling author takes us deep into the mountains of Nepal with a trio of botanist friends in search of native Himalayan plants that will grow in her Vermont garden. Alighting from a plane in the dramatic Annapurna Valley, the ominous signs of Nepal's Maoist guerrillas are all around—an alarming presence that accompanies the travelers throughout their trek. Undaunted, the group sets off into the mountains with Sherpas and bearers, entering an exotic world of spectacular landscapes, vertiginous slopes, isolated villages, herds of yaks, and giant rhododendron, thirty feet tall. The landscape and flora and so much else of what Kincaid finds in the Himalaya—including fruit bats, colorful Buddhist prayer flags, and the hated leeches that plague much of the trip—are new to her, and she approaches it all with an acute sense of wonder and a deft eye for detail. In beautiful, introspective prose, Kincaid intertwines the harrowing Maoist encounters with exciting botanical discoveries, fascinating daily details, and lyrical musings on gardens, nature, home, and family.
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Jamaica Kincaid was born in Antigua. Her books include At the Bottom of the River, Annie John, A Small Place, Lucy, The Autobiography of My Mother, My Brother, My Favorite Plant (as editor), My Garden (Book), Talk Stories, and Mr. Potter. At the Bottom of the River won the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and was nominated for the PEN/ Faulkner Award. In 2000 she was awarded the Prix Femina Etranger for My Brother. Kincaid lives with her family in Vermont and in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Novelist Kincaid tells of her journey into the foothills of the Himalayas in search of rare plants to bring home to her Vermont garden. Much of the book feels repetitive, in an almost meditative way, as the author uses plain yet lyrical language to record the quotidian details of life in the wilderness. For Kincaid, everything on this trip—eating, sleeping, bathing—requires more effort than usual and sometimes even instills anxiety. Kincaid's details of meals and sleepless nights do grow tedious, and it isn't clear if the author is glad she decided to accompany her botanist friends on their trek, considering the constant threat of leeches and, much worse, the not unlikely (as she portrays it) possibility of losing her life at the hands of anti-American Maoist guerrillas ("Nothing could be more disturbing than sleeping in a village under the control of people who may or may not let you live"). Kincaid's fear never abates: "At some point I stopped making a distinction between the Maoists and the leeches." Occasionally, however, she is overcome with the beauty of the night sky, pilgrim destinations such as a sacred lake in Topke Gola, or the abundant flora, particularly "rhododendrons that were not shrubs, but trees thirty feet tall." This book is as much about a place as it is about overcoming fears and embracing the unfamiliar. Photos.
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