You Can't Get There From Here
by Gayle Forman


Rodale Press, 2005. ISBN 1594860378.
Reviewed by Marti Weisbrich
Posted on 06/21/2006

Nonfiction: Travel/Adventure

Connections—social, personal and global—are the cornerstone of this highly original, fascinating and oftentimes hilarious book by investigative journalist Gayle Forman. Part travel diary, part personal journal, You Can't Get There From Here is filled with honest, insightful and compassionate writing that brings you stunningly into the global reality of a shrinking world.

Beginning in her home in New York, Forman and her librarian husband, Nick, travel the world on a journey filled with epiphanies, humor and, at times, pathos. Each of the chapters interconnect from one country to another and correspond to destinations ranging from New York, Tonga, China, Cambodia, India, Kazakhstan, Tanzania, and South Africa to the Netherlands and back home to New York. You know that you are in for a highly entertaining and unusual book when one of the chapter headings is, "Sex, Love and Bouillabaisse!"

How many of us can say that we connected with transvestites from Tonga, Lord of the Rings groupies from Kazakhstan, Bollywood starlets and out-o- work Dutch prostitutes from Amsterdam? Forman describes herself as a "member of the tribe of the odd." It is this self-awareness that lends such richness to her descriptions of these encounters. She brings a humorous take to the problems of a global world but always with a real social conscience. For the author, "the most favorite thing about travel is that wonderful moment, that alchemy when the man at the tea shop remembers your name and suddenly, you connect, you belong."

Interwoven with these tales of unforgettable characters is a very personal tale of the toll this kind of traveling can take on a marriage and the expectations that each of us carry in relationships. In an interview Forman gave in March 2005 for Budget Travel On-Line.com, she notes, "traveling the world was an extraordinary positive experience...but also difficult at times...traveling together is hard on a marriage...you get tired of being the (lost) stranger in a strange land. But even when it is difficult, travel is always a positive experience."

From the choice of a quote by William Sloan Coffin, preceding the introductory chapter, "The world is too dangerous for anything but truth and too small for anything but love," you get the sense of the direction of this book. Compelling to me was the fact that twelve weeks before embarking on this journey, the tragedy of September 11th occurred. Deciding to go ahead with their plans, Forman states, "to forget the humanity in others is to risk forgetting our own." For the author, "this defining moment of darkness" brought about the realization that the world is indeed shrinking. I, for one, am grateful for her realization because this enlightening book embraces the notion that although the world is shrinking, "it is still clearly filled with wonder."

An interviewer from Newsweek, Lorraine Ali, said of this book, "This is travel through a secret door; luckily, we get to go along." I do hope you will open the door and go along for a wild, amusing and thought-provoking trip of a lifetime. The only criticism I have is that this book calls out for travel photos. I have a very active imagination. But at times, I had difficulty visualizing the exotic locations and people Forman and her husband encountered on their journey around the world. FYI: To see photos from the book, go to the author's website and click on the section entitled "Scrapbook".

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