The leap between dreamy child living in a provincial Australian neighborhood and journalist hopscotching through war zones is massive. In Foreign Correspondence
, Geraldine Brooks (Nine Parts of Desire
) unravels the rope that pulled and tugged her toward adventure and away from "a very small world" where her family had no car and had never boarded a plane or placed an international phone call. "I'd never imagined myself as someone whose packing list would include a chador
, much less a bulletproof vest," she says. Preserved in the cellar of her parents' home in Sydney were letters Brooks had received as a teenager from several international pen pals, around whom she spun a romantic view of the world. Wondering about the reality of their lives and the progression of her own, she tracks them down in France, Japan, the Middle East, and New York. En route, Brooks delivers a wonderful meditation on childhood and adolescence lashed with rich details and quirky humor. Speaking of a current pen pal, she notes: "Raed, from the West Bank, stoned my car in 1987; now he writes to tell me how he's faring in college."
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From School Library Journal
YA-Bored with her insular life in a suburb of Sydney, Australia, 11-year-old Geraldine Brooks turned to pen pals as an antidote. Her correspondence began across town with the daughter of a favorite journalist whose cosmopolitan life was a striking contrast to that of her own working-class family. Other pen pals included Joanie from New Jersey; Mishal, an Israeli Christian Arab; Cohen, an Israeli Jew; and Janine, a farmer's daughter who wrote from a tiny French village. Geraldine's global correspondence is enlightening, entertaining, myth shattering, and heartbreaking. In Joanie, she found a true and rare soulmate; however, the girl suffered a hidden anguish, hints of which were dismissed by her Australian friend. When Joanie died from anorexia, Geraldine's grief and regret moved her to greater knowledge and deeper compassion. The author grew up to become a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, living the life she sought vicariously from her pen pals. Her return home upon her father's death and the rediscovery of the letters prompted her to find out what happened to those individuals. Her efforts were met with enthusiasm by all except Mishal, and the subsequent meetings with the reluctant Israeli as well as with Joanie's mother provided satisfying closure. The last pages of the memoir find the mature adventurer coming full circle to an appreciation for the small-town life she had once so derided. The desire to explore the lives of others and to express one's individuality is strong in most young adults, who will readily identify with this intriguing memoir.Jackie Gropman, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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