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Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone Paperback – November 15, 1998

31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Great travel writing has always been about the person making the trip as well as the things he or she encounters, and Mary Morris's category-defying 1988 memoir was an instant classic as much for its candid revelation of the author's turbulent emotions as for its sensitive, unglamorous portrait of a Latin America most tourists never see. Living in a poor neighborhood of the small Mexican town San Miguel de Allende, Morris befriends a neighbor, Lupe, who is struggling to support her many children (fathered by three different men) and to cope with her current, openly unfaithful partner. Scenes of life in San Miguel alternate with Morris's voyages around Central America, from the historic ruins of Teotihuacán to the contemporary turmoil of Nicaragua under the Sandinistas. Memories of her past crowd in: her parents' tense marriage, which sparked the restlessness that keeps their daughter on the road; her difficult relationships with often cruel men; the desolation of the years prior to her departure for San Miguel. Neither her affection for Lupe nor her love affair with a Mexico City man can prevent Morris's eventual return to the U.S., but her eloquent, elegant prose makes it clear that the grim, grand landscape and its tenacious inhabitants have left an indelible imprint on her soul. --Wendy Smith

From Publishers Weekly

Author of short stories and the novel Crossroads, Morris here writes a memoir of her solitary travels through Latin America. Covering the peregrinations of approximately 18 months, she first describes arriving in a fugue-like state at the tiny Mexican village of San Miguel where she was befriended by the extremely poor Lupe and her children. The story continues with Morris's disclosures of sexual affairs, a particularly absorbing account of her stay in Nicaragua, recollections of brief companionships with people she met. The writing is lyrical but often histrionically self-absorbed and so personal that the reader feels voyeuristic. The most memorable part of the book focuses on Lupe, who endures life's meanest blows and remains hopeful.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (November 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312199414
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312199418
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #698,760 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Kate on November 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
Although Morris would (and does) believe that she is a natural and effortless traveller, this text attests otherwise. Morris spends the majority of the work lamenting the inefficencies of Mexico and reminding us how bold she is for taking the journey. The other portion consists of her waxing lyrical about her indifference to love or how generous she is as the privileged and revered American. She continously struck me as bitter and egocentrical.

Similarly, I think she adheres to the stereotypes she seemingly casts away. I particularly loved when she decided that she felt more like a 'man than a woman' in her relationship with the pampering/cleaning Mexican man. I also shuddered when she declared that her aforementioned Mexican love was like an 'Indian' when drunk.

As others have suggest, the cast that populates the background are more interesting than Morris herself. Beautiful writing and landscape, but intensely annoying subject.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By jmh on May 18, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful memoir of Mary Morris' travels into Central America and personal growth around the 1970's. A woman in her early 30's, she has a successful writing career and traveled extensively. Her journey into Central America is a trip embarked with a heavy heart and personal doubts. Her past needs reckoning and her search for personal equanimity is at last confronted when she moves to San Miguel, Mexico. Unknowingly, she rents an apartment in the poorest part of town instead of the more affluent area where many of the "wealthier foreigners" live. This error in judgement serves to be her silver lining. Skillfully brought to life are the neighbors that become her loving friends and substitute family. As she opens herself to their lives and stories, she feels compelled to face her inner demons.
For many, the prosect of reading another traveling diary may be stultifying. This is not one of those, but an original attempt to make the relationship of a woman's personal journey inside herself and her global journeys she bravely explores on her own.
In her past, Mary has been physically and emotional abused by some of the men in her life. I thing it is extremely important to note that in those years, many of the social/counseling/activist support groups were non-existant, or at the least, in their infancy. For Mary, her travels, and those that she met in the wake of her trips, served as her counselors and support groups.
There were a wide assortment of characters that she met in her travels, and her gift is to be able to write about what each of them meant to her. Many of them are truly unforgettable and the times she writes about capture the humor, strength and sorrow of their lives.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a book which richly deserves some judicious editing. Morris can write well, in every sense, yet gets bogged down with her own emotional dramas. Having travelled, much of it by backpacking and hitchhiking, I could easily appreciate her stories and descriptions. Yet I was frequently annoyed by her 'woe is me' whining. It makes only a good book out of what could have been a travel classic. The other reviews here cover the content quite nicely, and accurately. The book is worth reading if travel interests you, but for a far better author in the same vein, check out Tim Cahill. His writing is equally impressive, his travels more interesting, and his self-deprecating humor is a pleasant contrast to Morris, who is unfortunately quite full of herself. I know which author I'D choose to travel with, hands down.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mary G. on September 9, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is so fantastic that I have re-read it and also bought a copy for a friend. She was delighted and said she stayed up all night to read it.
Mary Morris has written a fascinating insight into living in San Miguel, Mexico (although she also visited other Central American countries). Her characters in San Miguel really come to life. And in the bargain, she also gives a very honest picture of her personal changes. I think her situation is one that many women can relate to. I cannot say enough good things about this book and can see why she has received so many literary awards.

In reading some of the other reviews, I think some people have not "gotten" the point of the book. Certain in terms of those expecting research to the point of giving specific names of animal species, etc., please know that those are topics for another kind of book. The reader of this book gets the big picture, and it is played out in a very personal account.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 8, 1997
Format: Paperback
Morris reminds me of people I've met travelling; rootless, wanting too much, searching everywhere for adventure. This book is about her trip to Mexico, alone, where she writes, thinks, loves, and makes various friends, whom she knows she will leave. In this book there's the transient community of the ageless twenty-something, who turns thirty and is still searching for everything she doesn't have, the lessons that come from simple living, and no resolution
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By on June 18, 1998
Format: Paperback
Mary Morris' intensely personal memoir of her time spent living in Mexico resonates with honesty and beauty on every page. Morris captures the essence of the trials and joys of a woman travelling alone while at the same time revealing an insider's look at the true modern culture of Mexico. Her vivid descriptions of the small village where she spends almost a year are so vivid that even a person who has never been to Mexico will feel that they know it like a friend's backyard. The characters are not characters but people--people who think and live and grow throughout the book just as they would in real life. Morris has a unique ability to not only be able to search her own soul in prose but that of other's as well, with seemingly unfailing accuracy. The intertwining of her inner journey with the story of her physical journey is faultlessly crafted and expressed. I reread this book every few months and am moved to tears and laughter everytime. It, and Mary Morris' other travel works, are essential reading for any traveller and absolutely necessary for any woman who ever has or ever plans to travel alone.
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