All the Way to Heaven: An American Boyhood in the Himalayas

Overview

When Stephen Alter is asked the simple question Where are you from, originally? he hesitates. Although he is in most every way an American - granted with a trace of a British accent - he has an unexpected reply: My real home was in India, a hill station called Mussoorie, seven and a half thousand feet up the Himalayas. That was where I was born and raised, in a section known as Landour... The son and grandson of Presbyterian missionaries living in India for more than half a century, every day Alter straddled the ...
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Overview

When Stephen Alter is asked the simple question Where are you from, originally? he hesitates. Although he is in most every way an American - granted with a trace of a British accent - he has an unexpected reply: My real home was in India, a hill station called Mussoorie, seven and a half thousand feet up the Himalayas. That was where I was born and raised, in a section known as Landour... The son and grandson of Presbyterian missionaries living in India for more than half a century, every day Alter straddled the profound boundary between utterly different peoples, cultures, languages, and religions. He and his brothers spoke a pidgin dialect of Hindustani and English as young boys, fished in rivers called the Song, the Ganga, and the Jumna, and later hunted for barking deer and ghoral in the steep foothills of the mountains looming always behind them. They studied American history but knew more about India's recent independence from England. In All the Way to Heaven, Alter pays loving tribute to his family, his Indian friends, his memories exotic and mundane, and to his unique upbringing in a land so far away.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As a boy, Alter visited the Taj Mahal by moonlight, kept homing pigeons as pets, observed cremations along the Ganges and toured Himalayan valleys and peaks, speaking a mixture of Hindi and English. Born in 1956 to American Presbyterian missionaries in Mussoorie, an Indian resort town high in the Himalayas, he wistfully evokes his idyllic Indian youth in this graceful memoir. The missionary community, "like a small town in middle AmericaWinesburg, Ohio, transported to the Himalayas," was outwardly harmonious, but beneath the neighborly, pious facade it seethed with squabbles and controversies, he reports. Alter's sporadic boyhood travels in the U.S. with his parents Ithaca, N.Y., in 1961-1962 and a crisscrossing adventure from Los Angeles to Princeton, N.J., in 1967-1968, where he felt "poor... cheated and deprived," led to his immersion in American pop culture, his atheism and his desire to become a writer. He left India for Wesleyan University in 1974. From India's cyclical rhythms and diverse cultures, he learned the potency of myth and metaphor, an experience beautifully distilled in a memoir that nonetheless remains rather detached from the wider Indian society. A writer-in-residence at MIT, Alter's novels include Neglected Lives. Mar.
Library Journal
This is a beautifully written book about growing up between two cultures. Novelist Alter Neglected Lives, LJ 7/78 was born into a Presbyterian missionary family in India and attended elementary and secondary schools in the hilltown of Mussoorie. The time was the 1960s and 1970s, when American youth culture was undergoing massive changes that were being felt worldwide, including in the missionary schools he attended. Alter's attention to the nuances of adolescence of both his American and his Indian schoolmates, along with his fine descriptions of the physical setting, make this book remarkably engaging and smooth reading. One can only hope that he continues his narrative through college days at Wesleyan University. With more people today straddling two cultures, this book deserves to find a welcome readership in public libraries.Harold M. Otness, Southern Oregon Univ. Lib., Ashland
Booknews
Novelist Stephen Alter evocatively describes his upbringing as the son of Presbyterian missionaries living on a hill station in India's high Himalayas, an area of memorable natural beauty that the author finds impossible to forget. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805051582
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 1/28/1998
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 319
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.59 (h) x 1.14 (d)

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