Saturday, June 28, 2008

Travelin' solo

After finishing The Devil in the White City, I needed something quick to read, something I could get through before my flight to Washington on Monday. I looked in my bookcase and found a book I had purchased a year ago: Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone. Written by Mary Morris, it is the chronicle of a sojourn in Mexico and Latin America--not the Mexico or Latin America that we see on cruise ships or on glammed-up travel shows. Rather, this book chronicles the gritty reality of abject poverty in the Mexican barrios, as well as the political instability in countries such as Nicaragua and Guatemala.

Morris isn't clear about how long she stayed in Mexico. She had an apartment in San Miguel de Allende, a town located, as she writes, "about 10 hours south of Laredo." She lives next door to a poor woman named Lupe and her children. Morris moved to this part of Mexico to get away from some heartache that she left behind in America, and uses money from a grant to fund her voyage.

She writes in a stream of consciousness fashion, with little attention paid to dates and time. She doesn't really devote that much time to her inner demons, but rather, focuses on the trips that she took around Central America, such as the time she went to Agua Azul and watched a young boy fall over the waterfall. (OK, I was wrong about the inner demon part, she was traumatized by this event, understandably so). She writes about her Mexican boyfriend, Alejandro, and her relationship with him. She loves him, but not enough to marry him. She can't live with him, she can't live without him. They have a "come here, now get away" type of relationship. I found it confusing.

This memoir was a great first person portrayal of Mexican poverty and political instability in Central America. As a memoir, however, it fell kind of flat. Mary Morris didn't experience personal revelations on the scale of those found in Eat, Pray, Love and glossed over some of the real reasons why she decided to settle in San Miguel de Allende for a while. Whatever trauma she experienced, it seemed clear to me that she wasn't ready to discuss it in written form. Quite frankly, this was one of those books I read through as fast as I could just so I could get through it. Enjoyable, but not a keeper.

Now to find a book for DC. I won't have a terrible amount of time to read, but I'd at least like something from the plane, something that I can focus on when my crossword puzzles get too frustrating.

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