Home on the Road

Published By: Syren Book Company

Book Category: Non-Fiction, Travel

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Reviewed by Linda Benninghoff

Catherine Watson’s “Home on the Road” is made up of a series of vignettes, most of which contain fascinating historical and cultural background about the places she visits. This makes for travel writing that is more than travel writing—she delves into each place she tours in depth.

In a section on Tibet, Watson mentions that over a million Tibetans died because of the Chinese occupation—were either killed during the fighting, “or later, from executions, suicide, illness and famine. And, I would add, from heartbreak.” The number of functioning monasteries shrank from 6,200 to about 15, Watson said. Watson observes the people of Tibet, and notes their long-lasting reverence for the Dali Lama, who fled with his family years ago when he was 16. She depicts their loss.

In each story she tells, Watson manages to come up with vivid details–and they are the right details for the country or culture she is describing. Her account of the Mexican festival of the dead is rendered vividly with all the shocking feelings it would evoke in a Westerner. During this time, Mexicans create skeletons and coffins made of candy, as if, even as children they were being accustomed to the idea of death. She contrasts this with our death-denying culture, where youth is emphasized and our health-care system makes Americans think that every disease–and almost death itself—can be treated medically.

Watson captures the spirit of the places she visits and relates her personal feelings as she travels. This is unusual travel literature. In just a few pages she can transport the reader to strange, distant lands and make them come alive. Part of the book contains an account of some of the author’s childhood, and the story of her experiences on Easter Island, the place she almost stayed.

The book will be enjoyed by both travelers and those who can only travel through a book.

Armchair Interviews says: This is a unique introduction to about 40 well-chosen locales.

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