From Publishers Weekly
Davis, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, recounts his two eventful years as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching in a small Mongolian town in his knowledgeable yet convoluted memoir. As a 23-year-old Midwesterner, nothing prepared him for the former Communist satellite, which is largely rural and teeming with the legacy of the Great Khan, yaks and goats being herded on the rugged steppes. Davis sees a landscape on the brink of change and a young population eager for a better life depicted in Internet cafes and media from the outside world. Yet the isolation and culture shock plunge him into a dangerous place psychologically, and alcohol abuse and mayhem result in a brutal drunken fight. Other than some standard travelogue facts on Mongolian history and culture, Davis is correct when he concludes that his brief Mongolian journey was like a flutter of an eyelid and subsequently will feel the same way to the reader. (Feb.)
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In 2000, at the age of 23, Davis leaves Chicago, his hometown, to travel to Mongolia to work as a teacher for the Peace Corps. Once he arrives in the small town of Tsetserleg, Davis moves into a ger, the circular tent that will be his home for the next two years, and gets to know the family whose land he is living on. He finds his students difficult to motivate, and a romance with a beautiful Mongolian teacher is heated but brief. After enduring a brutal Mongolian winter and a plague-induced quarantine, Davis finds himself falling into the trap he sees so many Mongolian men around him succumbing to: drinking constantly and giving into violent tendencies. The longer he’s in Mongolia, the deeper he falls into depression and ennui, until a violent encounter shakes him into realizing his life has to change. Both a raw personal examination and an insightful look at Mongolian history and culture, Davis’ illuminating memoir sheds light on a remote region. --Kristine Huntley