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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 (71 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:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,246 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 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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12 of 12 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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars OK memoir about trip to Africa October 7, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
After taking my own first trip to Africa last year, I was intrigued to read this travel memoir about a bored wife living in Paris who decides to separate from her husband to go on a backpacking trip through Africa. Inspired by female explorers of by-gone eras, she wanted to experience the "real" Africa and so travels through potentially dangerous areas as a single woman in a manner that seemed to completely lack common sense. I had difficulty identifying with that part of the story--I kept thinking, is she crazy? She's going to get attacked, raped, robbed, or worse. There's a lot of her "finding herself" and less about the cultures of the different African countries she passed through. I found this book much less compelling than another African memoir I read recently, Paul Theroux's The Last Train to Zona Verde.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a let-down September 20, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I will admit, reading about a 30-something-year-old former Dow Jones writer giving up the good Parisian life for a backpacking trip across Western Africa is an intriguing story. And there is some good parts to this story. But what I think this book needs is a good editor to weed out the "What Am I looking for" theme and to focus on Africa itself. There is too much chaos at the start of this book that had me wondering what author Nina Sovich wanted to focus on.

Sovich writes well. Her problem is that she wants to say too much. The first part of this book starts out with her in Africa, but then she goes back to her childhood in Connecticut, her unhappy Swedish mom, and then her life in Paris and how she met her husband Florent. Yes, she admits that she got her wanderlust from her mom, and her patient husband lets her travel to far-flung places on a shoestring budget.

When she focuses on the Africans and her travels her attention is at its best. She captures some good aspects of Muslim African women, and writes some compelling passages I really liked. Her many unaccompanied journeys have offered her many shocking stares from the natives, and this seems to prevent her from truly getting to know the places she travels to by herself. There's always a sense of dislocation no matter where she is, despite knowing that the places she is at are fascinating places if only she would open up to them all.

The second and third part of this book flows better, yet she remains the isolated foreign woman in a strange place. Her experiences are worth writing about and reading, but Sovich's inability to truly connect with the natives leaves this book as a disappointment.

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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful Story of Self-Discovery and Exploration
I found this work to be a delightful story of self-discovery and exploration. Though I have been fascinated by Africa all my life and lived there for a year even, I did not have... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Lost in Vegas
4.0 out of 5 stars A great insight into life in that area of africa
well written. A great insight into life in that area of africa. Interwoven through the story is the personal
life accounts of Nina.
Published 2 months ago by kelvin holmes
5.0 out of 5 stars An engrossing tale that made me want to run away to Africa
I'm planning a months-long trip to Africa in two years, and reading everything I can about the continent in the meantime. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Leslie Patrick
1.0 out of 5 stars A trek with a negative attitude
I forced myself to complete this book...
So negative about her family...USA...France...her husband...marriage...and children. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Judy Baker
1.0 out of 5 stars Hard to get into. Had no direction. Was ...
Hard to get into. Had no direction. Was focused more on another explorer and this author was going nowhere. Gave the book up 25% through.
Published 5 months ago by Dorothy Mitchell
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Sometimes a little painful but life is painful
Published 6 months ago by Carol Wilson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Interesting travel stiry
Published 6 months ago by B. Kipper
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved this book.
Published 7 months ago by kindle reader
2.0 out of 5 stars I just wasn't all that interested in her love life.
For me it was just too much about the author and her life and not so much about the travels. I just wasn't all that interested in her love life.
Published 8 months ago by Keith L Rogers
4.0 out of 5 stars Into Africa
Amazing memoir of a woman who visits Northern Africa as it really is: poverty, sights, smells, dangerous situations and all. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Sue
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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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