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To the Moon and Timbuktu: A Trek Through the Heart of Africa [Kindle Edition]

Nina Sovich
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nina Sovich had always yearned for adventures in faraway places; she imagined herself leading the life of a solitary traveler. Yet at the age of thirty-four, she found herself married and contemplating motherhood. Catching her reflection in a window spotted with Paris rain, she no longer saw the fearless woman who spent her youth travelling in Cairo, Lahore, and the West Bank staring back at her. Unwittingly, she had followed life’s script, and now she needed to cast it out.

Inspired by female explorers like Mary Kingsley, who explored Gabon’s jungle in the 1890s, and Karen Blixen, who ran a farm in Kenya during World War I, Sovich packed her bags and hopped on the next plane to Africa in search of adventure.

To the Moon and Timbuktu takes readers on a fast-paced trek through Western Sahara, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, bringing their textures and flavors into vivid relief. On Sovich’s travels, she encounters rough-and-tumble Chinese sailors, a Venezuelan doctor working himself to death in Chinguetti, indifferent French pensioners RVing along the coast, and a close-knit circle of Nigerien women who adopt her into their fold, showing her the promise of Africa’s future.

This lyrical memoir will transport you to the breathtaking landscapes of West Africa, whose stark beauties will instill wonder in even the most experienced traveler. Sovich’s journey reveals that sometimes we must pursue that distant glimmer on the horizon in order to find the things we value most.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Discouraged with her domestic life in Paris and career as a reporter, Sovich embarks on an overland journey across West Africa. From her Swedish mother, who felt trapped by suburban life, Sovich inherited an escapist conception of travel: "The overriding lesson of my childhood was that travel was the only thing that could ever make a woman happy." Laced with her piquant observations, Sovich's memoir embodies the persistent longing for adventure her middle class upbringing inspired. As she traverses the harsh landscape from Morocco to Niger, Sovich finds company in the stories of female Victorian travelers, especially Englishwoman Mary Kingsley whom she describes as a "swashbuckler first, scientist second." Rejecting creature comforts, Sovich dives headlong into the desert. "I enjoy my depravation, even feel superior about it. In paring down my life like this I want to remind myself how little we actually need. There is also, however, a tinge of vanity to what I do." What she emerges with is a deeply personal journey into an incredibly remote region. Sovich casts her polished journalistic eye on the anguish and sublime beauty she encounters while unflinchingly narrating her own intensely intimate journey. (July)

From Booklist

Being free to travel the world and make amazing discoveries may sound like an unattainable dream to some, but Sovich made it happen, leaving the rest of us to read about it in her memoir. After realizing that she was conforming to the stereotypical roles of wife and mother and had yet to travel the world as she once planned, she packs up her bags and begins her life’s journey across Africa. Sovich describes a high-energy trek through Western Sahara and Niger, and the striking scenery isn’t the only aspect that makes her story so vivid. Her accounts of the people she comes across along the way add much dimension to her tale. An intriguing and involving memoir about long-awaited, life-changing travels. --Carissa Chesanek

Product Details

  • File Size: 2601 KB
  • Print Length: 319 pages
  • Publisher: Amazon Publishing; 1 edition (July 9, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00B77UDW0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #246,767 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Modern-day explorer June 1, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Nina Sovich loves her husband, but her life in Paris leaves her feeling empty and unfulfilled. Her mother had traveled in Africa when Nina was a child, and came back with fascinating stories of the places she had seen. And her father mentioned Timbuktu as a faraway, exotic place that sparked her imagination. So Nina, who has been a reporter and already seen a bit of the world, decides to take off on her own and explore Western Africa with only a few necessities in a backpack. Her ultimate goal is the distant, mysterious city of Timbuktu.

To the Moon and Timbuktu is the story of a journey -- three journeys, in fact, because Nina keeps going back. She does reach Timbuktu, but more importantly, she reaches inside herself to find the person she really is. Her descriptions of the places and people of West Africa are well-crafted -- I felt like I knew some of the characters personally. She sees grinding poverty and describes living conditions that frankly made me shudder -- and admire her dogged determination. She uses various forms of transportation, some not all that safe, to get from one place to the other in the vast West African desert.

Frankly, I'm rather amazed that her husband didn't try harder to talk her out of her journeys, but he seems an unusually sensitive man who understands that his wife needs to do this -- not just to prove that she can, but for personal growth.

Throughout the book, she talks about two other women who ventured into Africa: 1800s explorer Mary Kingsley, and Isak Dineson, who wrote the famous memoir "Out of Africa." She feels a kinship with both women. She meets women in African villages who bring her into their circle of friendship, and she discovers, despite the obvious cultural differences, that women everywhere share common bonds.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside and apart from and beyond Africa July 17, 2013
By T.S.
The stories themselves are crystalline in their beauty--there's a kind of lyrical clarity throughout the writing but there's complexity and unexpected angles (sometimes humorous, sometimes punches). The stories are peopled with fascinating characters, including Sovich herself who is present and thinking but never overwhelming the rest of what is happening, I love how everything is on display: the good, the bad, the funny, the sad, the Other, the self, and the way they all keep dissolving and reassembling.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Nina Sovich always wanted to travel, even after she was married and "settled" in Paris. Her husband, Florent, is very understanding and encourages her to follow her dreams. She travels to Africa and explores the Western Sahara, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. I was immediately fascinated by her travels since I was not familiar with Mali or Mauritania. I love learning about new places!

Why I so enjoyed this book:

* Nina not only writes of her physical travels, but of her journey to personal growth. She masterfully interweaves the two. Her trip to Timbuktu is especially inspiring.

* The masterful descriptions of the places she visits were so realistic. I can just see the long horned cows drinking from the river, the brightly clad villagers walking to get water, etc.

* The people she meets are real characters. Nina really brings them to life. I picture Africa as a violent and unfriendly place. Nina's special friendships with the women she meets paint quite a different picture. The women are warm, welcoming and kind.

* It inspired me to learn more about Africa. I am looking forward to reading more about Mary Kingsley, an 1800's Gabon traveler, and Karen Blixen, a Kenyan farmer during World War I.

I would have loved to have seen a map showing Nina's travels. As part of my continuing education about Africa, I will look up the areas myself. It also would have been really interesting to see pictures. I understand Nina traveled light, so packing a camera was not in her plans.

I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about Africa. Even if you're not interested in Africa, this is an inspiring book about personal growth.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not Your Everyday Africa June 20, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I enjoyed Nina Sovich's To the Moon and Timbuktu because it was a glimpse at an Africa that I was not familiar with. Nina is a woman in her late 30's who has spent her young adult life travelling to all reaches of the globe, living and interacting with the people who call these places home. When she marries and settles in Paris, she finds herself very unhappy, yearning for the adventures she had experienced before. She decides to go to Africa and chooses Timbuktu because it is a name she recognizes. Most of the book details her journey TO Timbuktu, but a smaller part of the book deals with her time when she actuallly reaches Timbuktu. I found her stories easy to relate to. They are not grand stories, they are simply the stories of the real people who live and work in these poor and often desolate places. Though the people may not be rich, the experiences they share with her leave her feeling fulfilled and satisfied. Because the stories are of the ordinary people, some may not find the book a page turner. I certainly appreciated meeting these people and learning about these places along with Ms. Sovich. Her writing is vivid and sometimes humorous. I found myself easily slipping into her shoes.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book to read
My brother rode a motorcycle across the saraha to timbuktu. This is a good reminder what he went through. It took him over a month
Published 1 month ago by Jesse
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent exposure of one's inner self as it relates to society
I loved how Nina expressed her feelings about society around her. She covered the frustrations of youth, parents, and marriage. Read more
Published 2 months ago by sylvan feldman
5.0 out of 5 stars Will read this one again!
A great read! I bought this because I'm a sucker for a good travel book. Have traveled a lot myself, often to places I've read about in one or another traveler's journey. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Richard Pavek
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun to Read with Moments of Must-Read-That-Again Beauty
Really well written and so incredibly honest. It's particularly fun to read as a woman. I'd recommend this to anyone who loves to explore new, kind of scary places and sometimes... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Bluebird
4.0 out of 5 stars Along for the hike
Written from the soul. Strong and believable. Made you feel as if you were with her on her trek. I was happy for her in the end.
Published 3 months ago by Dana Reale
5.0 out of 5 stars an armchair adventure not to be missed...
an armchair adventure not to be missed I loved it every page it was an adventure to read more enjoyable than writing this.
Published 3 months ago by Silvia Kelly
2.0 out of 5 stars So much potential...
There is so much potential for character development in this story. Unfortunately, the book reads like a newspaper article and never moves into a story. Read more
Published 3 months ago by V. Jackson
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard to get started and is not interesting
at first. got better as you read.. happy that she had a baby. Hope her life is happy at present.
Published 3 months ago by jo steele
3.0 out of 5 stars Nina needs help
Nina escapes from reality,travel in a culture is not the same as as living in the culture . Escape is her goal.
Published 3 months ago by Arthur R Unger
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much naval-gazing
I was immediately drawn to the idea of a well-to-do, 30-something woman wanting to trek through the Sahara to Timbuktu. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Evangeline Kessler
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More About the Author

Nina Sovich was born in suburban Connecticut to a Swedish mother and an American father. Throughout her 20s she traveled in the Middle East, spending time in Pakistan, Egypt and the West Bank. She has reported for the Wall Street Journal and Reuters news service. At present she lives in Paris with her husband and two children. To the Moon and Timbuktu is the story of her trek through West Africa shortly after getting married in 2005. It is her first book.

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