Nothing to Declare:
Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone

by Mary Morris

St. Martin's Press, 1999. ISBN 0312199414.
Reviewed by Lisa Check
Posted on 09/27/2004

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Travel/Adventure

I first read Nothing to Declare as I was escaping a bad relationship. At that time, I was contemplating many journeys by myself. In the 10 years since, I have been to many of the places that Morris writes about, and now I could accompany the author on her treks through the jungle to Tikal and smell the incense at the church in Chichicastenango. Though the idea of living in a foreign country (or even another state) fascinates and scares me, this book gave me a taste of the feelings I might experience if I chose to live abroad.

Mary Morris blends history, myth, travelogue, and memoir to give us a picture of her life in Mexico. She went there to write and possibly escape a bad relationship briefly mentioned. She seems to arrive in Mexico with only a minimal knowledge of the language, no friends and no expectations. In fact, because we have no prior knowledge about her, she seems to just appear with no history or baggage.

The story is divided into 10 geographical chapters related to geophysical features rather than countries themselves. Morris discusses the political landscapes in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Mexico, as well as the U.S. involvement in those political situations. Her story is peopled with characters who become her surrogate family -- Lupe and her children, Alejandro, and other ex-patriots in Mexico who are there to write, sculpt, paint, and search for themselves.

In an interview for Newcity with David Marc Fischer, Morris says that she "freely traverses the boundaries of fact and fantasy." Her inclusion of dreams and myths illustrates this boundary crossing. "I imagine what adventures might await me even though I know that the journey is never what we plan for; it's what happens between the lines." In this book, the author writes rich stories about living and loving during her journeys in Central America. Much of what happens is read between the lines.

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