From Publishers Weekly
Newly sober travel writer Troost retraces Robert Louis Stevenson's route through the South Pacific from the Marquesas to Samoa in this evocative, funny literary memoir. He recounts his voyage upon the Aranui III cargo ship rooming with a seasick "family of cheerful gnomes from Lyon," battling the urge for a drink and acquiring a traditional Marquesan tattoo on the anniversary of his sobriety. Troost provides insight into addiction and recovery that, in his case, turned him from alcoholic to longdistance runner, and from Buddhism to the Catholic Church. We learn the history of the islands and view the beautiful landscapes of lagoons, atolls, and beaches through Troost's vibrant descriptions. Troost muses on quotes from Stevenson's In the South Seas, such as his thoughts on cannibalism, "to eat a man's flesh after he is dead is far less hateful than to oppress him whilst he lives." He also discusses other literary works about the South Pacific including Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl's Back to Nature and Herman Melville's Typee. Troost is an excellent travel narrator, clever, bold, and full of captivating visual details. His personal story of recovery is also powerfully told and will surely resonate with many readers.
*Starred Review* It might seem odd that Troost, the Dutch American travel writer, had never read Robert Louis Stevenson’s In the South Seas, the chronicle of Stevenson’s South Pacific voyage to the Marquesas, Tahiti, and Samoa. But, hey, to Troost’s nimble, rather offbeat mind, RLS was “boring. He was stuffy. He was probably English.” Troost adds, “So I was an idiot.” This travel memoir charts the author’s own South Pacific voyage, replicating (to a degree) Stevenson’s. The trip was partly therapeutic—Troost, a recovering alcoholic, has a big problem with continents (“Bad things happened to me on large land masses. Terrible things”)—and going somewhere small and isolated seemed just the thing to ease a troubled spirit. But there was also an educational component. Troost was trying to experience the voyage in two ways: as a modern-day adventure, but also as a way to explore an episode of Stevenson’s life, to get to know this man and writer he’d neglected for far too long. Like Bill Bryson, Troost deftly combines humor, commentary, and education (an aside about the Marquesas episode of Survivor, sparked by the author’s discovery that he’s standing on a beach that featured in the show, leads smoothly into a look at “old Marquesas” and its odd mixture of wealth and poverty). Troost is a very funny guy, but he also has a lot of serious things to talk about. A splendid travel memoir. --David Pitt