Dear Exile: The True Story of Two Friends Separated (for a Year) by an Ocean

Dear Exile: The True Story of Two Friends Separated (for a Year) by an Ocean

by Hilary Liftin
     
 

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A funny and moving story told through the letters of two women nurturing a friendship as they are separated by distance, experience, and time.Close friends and former college roommates, Hilary Liftin and Kate Montgomery promised to write when Kate's Peace Corps assignment took her to Africa.  Over the course of a single year, they exchanged an offbeat and

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Overview

A funny and moving story told through the letters of two women nurturing a friendship as they are separated by distance, experience, and time.Close friends and former college roommates, Hilary Liftin and Kate Montgomery promised to write when Kate's Peace Corps assignment took her to Africa.  Over the course of a single year, they exchanged an offbeat and moving series of letters from rural Kenya to New York City and back again.Kate, an idealistic teacher, meets unexpected realities ranging from poisonous snakes and vengeful cows to more serious hazards: a lack of money for education; a student body in revolt.  Hilary, braving the singles scene in Manhattan, confronts her own realities, from unworthy suitors to job anxiety and first apartment woes.  Their correspondence tells—with humor, warmth, and vivid personal detail—the story of two young women navigating their twenties in very different ways, and of the very special friendships we are sometimes lucky enough to find.

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Editorial Reviews

bn.com
Two good friends, ten thousand miles between them, and dozens of letters back and forth. These features make up the compelling face of Dear Exile, but the real strength of this collected correspondence between two 20-something women lies beneath the surface in the relationship they share, the worlds they inhabit, and the lives they are trying to sort out.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375726088
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/26/2000
Series:
Vintage Departures
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
File size:
559 KB

Read an Excerpt

Kwale, May 31

Dear Hilary,

This business of having to write letters to keep up friendships definitely separates the wheat from the chaff. You are the wheat. (That would be the good part?)

Our new neighbor, Mwanamisi, came over last night to show me how to make coconut rice, wali wa nazi. Kate, you say, but you already know how to make coconut rice! Yes, I say, but I don't know how to make friends. So David and I were rushing around trying to make reality match what we had probably said in Kiswahili. (I think we said we'd 'already' cleaned the rice and we 'were doing' laundry.) Mwanamisi arrived midway through the coconut-milk-making process and was chatting with us about how to cook it really well, soft and sweet. As far as I could tell, she was complimenting me on what I had done so far, except there was one little part that I didn't catch, and her tone was less spunky, so I figured I probably didn't put enough salt in or something. But, all in all, I was pretty excited at not being totally incompetent at cooking.

Later, I checked on that verb to figure out what I'd done wrong. Here's what my dictionary said about it. (I mean, I just "haribu"-ed it--how bad could it be, right?) "kuharibu: v. injure, destroy, spoil, damage, ruin, demoralize, spoil work, break up an expedition, devastate a country, cause miscarriage, pervert, corrupt." That's what I did to the rice. Good thing we like potatoes, eh?

Love, Kate

New York City, December 19th

Dear Kate,

I have obeyed my rules and leapt empty-handed into the void. Much as I try to explain to myself that I am in transition and that everything will turn out fine, I'm hardly the happy camper we remember. I'm living at my dad's now. My eyelid has had a twitch ever since I moved in here. It's a delicate fluttering twitch that others don't seem to see, but to me it feels like there's a bird in my head beating itself against the window of my eye. So right now I hardly recognize myself. I wake up in a strange apartment. I hide away my bed and all signs of me.
I commute out of the city--away from all my friends and the places I know--to work at a sterile office at an ill-defined new job in a big, generic office building on a highway in Westchester. I'm just waiting: waiting to accumulate a foundation of knowledge that will get me the right job; waiting to get my own apartment so I can make noise and be a person; waiting to hail a cab and smile at the person getting out and see that stranger again and again.

Most of all right now, I can't wait to live alone. The finances of buying an apartment are impossible, but I'm willing to make adjustments. No long distance service, for example, no food on weekdays, drugstore makeup, factory-second panty hose, found art. I can't wait to acquire "homeowner's insurance." I want to have my stereo going when I fall asleep. I want all the messages to be for me. I want to bring home strangers and store their body parts in my freezer. I want to polyurethane floors and leave the toilet seat up (Oh wait, I'm a girl.) and throw away all the plastic grocery bags, which wouldn't even accumulate anyway since I don't shop. I want the shower to be a hundred percent available. I want to have parties and not clean up.

Oh, and how much do I miss you? Let me count the ways: I miss you like the plague; I miss you because you understand everything I say and because for all I know when I say I see blue everyone else might see green but I'm pretty sure you see blue; I miss you because when you get back you're going to be really different and dirty; I miss you because you are not coming to my Christmas party; I miss you because you are speaking Kiswahili and I can't and I'm afraid you'll never come home; I miss you as often as I check my voice mail (which is like every minute); I miss you because I don't trust anyone else's sanity (except maybe my brother's); I miss you more than I miss all my stored belongings and with a force that is just a tiny bit less than my desire to find a lifetime companion; I miss you because the park is covered in snow and I haven't been there yet; I miss you because I think you love me unconditionally and I definitely do you. This turned into a love letter, is that so wrong?

Goodbye my dirty friend, goodbye,

Hilary

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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What People are saying about this

Elinor Lipman
I adored Dear Exile, and, in the way of all wonderful books, now miss it. These letters are witty, real, charming, smart, touching, and — amazingly — unselfconscious. Truly, Dear Exile was for me love at first word.
(Elinor Lipman, author of Isabel's Bed)
Whitney Otto
I love Dear Exile, and I love the women in it. I opened it one afternoon, then just couldn't put it down. Here is a girlfriend relationship that I actually recognize. Their humor, love, and world view is to me, simply, perfection.
(Whitney Otto, How to Make an American Quilt)

Meet the Author

Hilary Liftin grew up in Washington, DC. In 1991 she graduated from Yale University, where she was the editor of the Yale Literary Magazine. She has worked in book publishing as an associate editor of nonfiction and literary fiction and as an editor/producer at several websites. She currently develops online products for Muze, a provider of digital information about music, videos and books, in New York City. Kate Montgomery was raised in Wakefield, Rhode Island. She studied at Yale and Columbia Universiities, and has spent time teaching in both Czechoslovakia and Kenya. Kate has previously co-authored a non-fiction book A Teacher's Guide to Standardized Reading Tests. She is currently on leave from her job as a high school English teacher in Harlem to raise, with her husband David Hackenburg, their new son, Kobi.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:
August 12, 1969
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
Education:
B.A., Yale University, 1991

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