May 16, 2013

Radio Shangri-La by Lisa Napoli

Hmmm, I would have to say that rather than this being a travel memoir, it was just a regular old memoir. Sure the author went to Bhutan a few times, but for all the description she might as well been at a theme park in the states. I just couldn't bring myself to like this memoir and was glad that it was short.

Napoli was in her early forties when a chance encounter presented her with an opportunity to go volunteer in Bhutan. She was to help with a radio station there, to improve and professionalize their programs. Although it was only a short stay, she grew to love the country and returned several times. And with her travels she learned to accept her life and happiness for what it was.

Napoli is ok. She does a lot of describing of herself in this book and while you can empathize with her on some points (she has had tragedy in her life) she does tend to go on and on about personal things and lack of a love life. Normally those things don't bother me so much in a memoir, but since this is supposed to be about what she learned in Bhutan according to the title, I wasn't happy with her lack of explanation on Bhutan or its people. The people she actually described as very childlike, nearly all of them in fact, except for one money-hungry monk. It seemed unfair to the people as I'm sure there were a lot of very intelligent people there that she probably talked to, but didn't recognize because of the language difference or whatever other obstacles there may have been.

There were a few nice descriptions of Bhutan but they were far and few between. The majority of the book seemed to focus on her descriptions of radio jobs and some looks into her past. There was a little bit about the radio she went to volunteer at, but that was maybe in the first quarter of the book and the rest jumped around between her time at home and a few more trips she made to Bhutan. But again, the lack of anything non-encyclopedic about Bhutan just wasn't there. The book read quickly, but it just didn't hold any interest for me. Too disjointed and not enough about the title subject caused it to be quite disappointing for me.

I wouldn't recommend this book if you're looking for something interesting about Bhutan. Maybe someone who just likes regular memoirs would enjoy it, but not someone who's got a little bit of wanderlust and had hoped to live vicariously.

Radio Shangri-La
Copyright 2010
277 pages

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