Friday, April 17, 2009

Armchair Travel

I just finished reading a fantastic book called The House at Sugar Beach, by Helene Cooper. It paints a picture of a place, Liberia, that I don’t think I’ll be visiting any time soon, but the picture is vivid.

The author grew up a privileged child in Liberia during the 1970s. In 1980, when she was 14, there was a coup and her family had to flee. An adopted sister was left behind to finish high school.

The author’s search for forgiveness from her sister reminded me a little bit of the movie The Killing Fields, and her journey from spoiled child to refugee reminded me of Empire of the Sun--although Helene’s own mother insisted that they were not technically refugees because they paid for their own plane tickets out of Africa.

Much of the book takes place outside of Liberia, but I still learned a lot about the country and its incongruous history. This taste will have to do until Liberia calms down enough to sustain a tourist industry. (I’m not holding my breath—even Lonely Planet recommends against going anywhere in the country outside of Monrovia.)

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