All it would take to say goodbye to the cold –
and the multitude of layers I have been forced to wear – would be an airplane ride a couple hours south. Instead, I read my way through three books that had me dreaming of bright blue skies, turquoise ocean waters, white sand and heat, glorious heat.
Among the Lemon Trees
Just the cover of Among the Lemon Trees by Nadia Marks ($14.99, PGC Books, PanMacMillan) makes me want to join the main character, Anna as she returns to the Aegean Islands, a group of islands in Greece, to spend the summer with her father and their family.
The island “simmered in the far distance like a white dove floating on the liquid blue of the Aegean…As they got closer, the rocky hills and mountains started to become visible and (Anna) could just make out the church of Agios Nikolaos high on a rock, glistening in the sunlight.”
The book not only makes you feel the heat of Greek Island and allows you to experience its beauty (“During the day when the sun is high in the sky it’s as if he steals the bashful jasmine‘s thunder so it retreats away, it holds back. But when the sun begins his descent and the sky turns to ink, then the jasmine flower explodes with a scent so beautiful that merely breathing it in is never enough), but the author also allows you to understand and experience the island culture.
Kalyana, a Novel
It’s not Kalyana’s story into womanhood and the cultural ramifications of silence as shame that makes me want to go to Fiji, particularly not the Fiji Islands of the 1960s as this novel by Raini Mala Khelawan is set (Kalyana, $19.95, Second Story Press), but the descriptions of the island that once set claim to seeing the first light of day.
“Worse, years later when all the timekeepers joined together to measure exactly which place on the globe saw the first morning light, a small island by New Zealand took the centuries-old title. The Fiji islanders wept and scrambled to modify their timekeeping sheets, but alas! The truth was clear: Fiji was not the place where the first day of the entire world began.”
Food also plays a large role in this book including gathering roots to make masala and preparing coconut in order to separate the flesh from the oil and water.
There was also the ocean – listening to the waves of ocean trapped in conch shells and going crabbing.
“Because, when the sun began to disappear in the far horizon, drawing the tide into the shore, (aunt) Manjula would bring out her spear and stab the shallow waters, aiming for the little claw marks in the sand.”
The Yellow Envelope
The Yellow Envelope, One Gift, Three Rules and a Life-Changing Journey Around the World by Kim Dinan ($22.50, Raincoast Books, Sourcebooks) follows Kim Dinan‘s journey of self discovery as she and her husband Brian sell all of their possessions, including their home, quit their jobs and turn to a life of traveling including through India, Vietnam, and Peru, which included a laugh-out-loud story when Kim, after holding her bladder for multiple hours, finally gets to go pee on a moving bus. The story was hilarious, made even better by Brian’s reaction. The couple was gifted a yellow envelope of money, which came with three rules – Don’t overthink it; Share your experience; don’t feel pressured to give it all away.
“At the end of the day, the money itself is just paper,” writes Michele and Glenn, who provided the gift. “What gives the whole experience meaning are the thoughts, emotions and feelings that come with giving the money away in ways that make you smile and make your hearts sing…”
The book offered a look at many beautiful places, some of which I want to go, many of which allowed me to live through Dinan’s words.
“Other travelers had warned us that India either cracks you open or kicks you aside. To survive India one had to embrace it for what it was: An incredible, beautiful, hideous cauldron of humanity as stripped and exposed as a skinned deer. If we tried to control of experiences in India, if we tried to make sense of the chaos, we’d hate it. In order to love it we’d have to accept it just as it is.”
When the pair was in Vietnam on a bicycle tour with their friends Michele and Glenn, the behaviour of their fellow American appalls them; they are tourists, while Kim and Brian are actual travelers, embracing the culture and becoming a part of the world around them.
“A group of boys was lofting a basketball toward a netless rim on a dirt court in front of the village school…One of the boys pinwheeled his arm at Brian, gesturing for him to come and play…I added sports to the mental list I’d been keeping of common languages. So far the list included smiling, laughter, food, music, dancing, and fawning over small babies.”
But the best part of the book, or at least something everyone should keep in mind when traveling and otherwise, came from a rickshaw driver in India:
“What do do? Many things happen in life. Still we must be happy.”
Lisa Day has a passion for books – owning them, reading them, writing about them and talking about them. She carries at least one, maybe two or three, books with her at all times and when she isn't reading, she is writing about them. You can also find her on Twitter at @LisaMDayC; Instagram at @LisaMDayReads, Facebook at www.facebook.com/BookTime584 and GoodReads at http://bit.ly/ldgoodreads