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To the Moon and Timbuktu: A Trek through the Heart of Africa Hardcover – July 9, 2013

77 customer reviews

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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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: New Harvest; 1 edition (July 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0544025954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0544025950
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #219,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Divascribe VINE VOICE on 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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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Connie TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 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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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Nancy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 26, 2013
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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