"Anyone familiar with Jamaica Kincaid's work knows that the natural world and, in particular, plants and gardening are especially close to her heart. Along with such acclaimed novels as Annie John and Lucy, she's also the author of My Garden (Book), a collection of essays. Now, in this travel memoir, she invites us to accompany her on a seed-gathering trek in the Himalayas." "For Kincaid and three botanist friends, Nepal is a paradise, a place where a single day's hike can traverse climate zones from subtropical to alpine, encompassing flora
"Anyone familiar with Jamaica Kincaid's work knows that the natural world and, in particular, plants and gardening are especially close to her heart. Along with such acclaimed novels as Annie John and Lucy, she's also the author of My Garden (Book), a collection of essays. Now, in this travel memoir, she invites us to accompany her on a seed-gathering trek in the Himalayas." "For Kincaid and three botanist friends, Nepal is a paradise, a place where a single day's hike can traverse climate zones from subtropical to alpine, encompassing flora suitable for growing in their home grounds from Wales to Vermont. And as she makes clear, there is far more to this foreign world than rhododendrons that grow thirty feet high. Danger too is a constant companion - and the leeches are the least of the worries." For along with the narrow paths that skirt vertiginous drops, these mountains are haunted by Maoist guerillas, and when they appear - as they do more than once - their enigmatic menace lingers long after they have melted away into the landscape. And Kincaid explores the irony of her status as memsahib with Sherpas and bearers - and understands that the liberating, exotic pleasures of travel are inextricably intertwined with the everyday pleasures of home and family.
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. (Jan.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Fans of the novelist (Annie John) and New Yorker contributor will welcome her latest adventures, tracking down plants for her Vermont garden in the mountains and valleys of Nepal. Along the way, Kincaid meets a variety of characters as interesting as the exotic plants, ranging from her Sherpas to Maoist militants. However, serious horticulturalists seeking meaningful descriptions of the flora of the Himalayas will be disappointed, as Kincaid's account does not concern botanical discoveries. Instead, it is really a series of descriptions of her trials and tribulations up, down, and eventually up to a pass at the height of 15,600 feet. Readers will quickly tire of Kincaid's whining about seeing amazing plants (she will rattle off their Latin names as a tease), only to realize that they wouldn't grow in Vermont (where much of the state lies in hardiness zone 5). Frankly, we also could do without the author's repeated insights while peeing in the middle of the night, too. Readers interested in the botany of Nepal should turn to Roy Lancaster's A Plantsman in Nepal or Narayan P. Manandhar's Plants and People of Nepal. Recommended for larger travel collections or where Kincaid's books are popular.-Edward J. Valauskas, Chicago Botanic Garden Lib. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"Travel writing at its best." —Sunday Times (London)
"Count on magic when you read Jamaica Kincaid." —Boston Globe
"There's tension, suspense and the exhilaration of discovery." —Dallas Morning News