"If you can write, that's great. If you can tell a story, that's even greater. But if you can work a resilient premise into both, you're worth digging to find."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

At Home on the Kazakh Steppe by Janet Givens

Synopsis: This is a memoir about mid-age newlyweds, and grandparents, leaving behind cherished valuables to join the Peace Corps 'to make friends for America' living three years in Kazakhstan (Central Asia).

Writing Style: First person, contemporary, easy... relaxed clean writing.

Pacing: Page-turner.

Premise: In line with the Peace Corps goal this story was about traversing cultures to appreciate customs.

Personal Highlights: Aside from the beginning, what I found most intriguing was following Janet’s process for handling the variations of conflicts she faced to build and appreciate relationships. The writing was quite methodic in explaining each struggle and impasse, before making a determination on how to come to terms with a given issue. Beautifully done.

There truly is so much to comment on about this story...from the premise of the Peace Corps work, to the selection of the assignment... the families and friends befriended, the students, the Kazakhstan tapestry...just so much. Two scene(s) however, really resonated. It was the second host family, and the visit at the friend’s home where in both instances I, too, wondered what nonverbal cues were the host family picking up that created the social disconnect.

Above all, this was simply a book I struggled to put down. Any reader who enjoys travel memoirs, or who are interested in Peace Corps work, will find this memoir a true delightful page-turner. Highly recommended.

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