November 08, 2011
Getting Stoned With Savages by J. Maarten Troost
Troost and his wife, after spending some time working in Washington DC, decide they need to go back to the Pacific. His wife finds a job in Vanuatu and they trek down there to stay. Troost, mostly unemployed (but working as a writer) spends the days exploring the area and finding out about the delights of Kava, a mild intoxicant drink that is quite popular in Vanuatu. Actually he spends a lot of time expressing his thoughts about kava. When they find out that they're expecting, they move to Fiji for better medical care and the last third of the book details this experience and their time in Fiji after the birth of their child.
Troost has a way of presenting islanders as very friendly and approachable. I'm not saying they aren't in real life, but he takes time to get to know them and to describe them in their way of thinking with their customs, not with preconceived notions that most tourists and foreigners would have judging by their own customs. He meets quite a few "characters" and its neat to see how well he gets along with everybody. Even the not so nice people he isn't overly harsh in his descriptions of them.
The bulk of this book is spent in Vanuatu. Which is good, I found his descriptions there much more interesting than the time spent in Fiji. Granted Fiji was having some political unrest, but the book manages to drag those parts out and make them somewhat boring. Vanuatu by contrast had more detail on the people and customs and his dalliance with kava, which was hilarious to read. Not to mention he does some research on cannibalism in the area. As said before, in addition to being a travel writer, Troost does a good job in the humor department as well. He isn't mean spirited but more pokes fun at himself. The little chapter descriptions before each chapter were hilarious in and of themselves.
I liked this one by Troost and will keep my eye out for any other of his books that I haven't read. I do enjoy his style of writing.
Getting Stoned with Savages