Friday, October 31, 2014

An Embarrassment of Mangoes

Book 58 of my 2014 Reading Challenge

An Embarrassment of Mangoes: a Caribbean Interlude by Ann Vanderhoof

Summary (via Goodreads)
Who hasn’t fantasized about chucking the job, saying goodbye to the rat race, and escaping to some exotic destination in search of sun, sand, and a different way of life? Canadians Ann Vanderhoof and her husband, Steve did just that.
In the mid 1990s, they were driven, forty-something professionals who were desperate for a break from their deadline-dominated, career-defined lives. So they quit their jobs, rented out their house, moved onto a 42-foot sailboat called Receta (“recipe,” in Spanish), and set sail for the Caribbean on a two-year voyage of culinary and cultural discovery.
In lavish detail that will have you packing your swimsuit and dashing for the airport, Vanderhoof describes the sun-drenched landscapes, enchanting characters and mouthwatering tastes that season their new lifestyle. Come along for the ride and be seduced by Caribbean rhythms as she and Steve sip rum with their island neighbors, hike lush rain forests, pull their supper out of the sea, and adapt to life on “island time.”
Exchanging business clothes for bare feet, they drop anchor in 16 countries -- 47 individual islands -- where they explore secluded beaches and shop lively local markets. Along the way, Ann records the delectable dishes they encounter -- from cracked conch in the Bahamas to curried lobster in Grenada, from Dominican papaya salsa to classic West Indian rum punch -- and incorporates these enticing recipes into the text so that readers can participate in the adventure.

My Opinion
This was a book club read.  It read slower than I expected based on the content.  I think the typeface made my eyes tired; I could only read it in short bursts before needing to take a break with something else.  

Comparisons are inevitable but if you're looking for something similar to Wild or Eat, Pray, Love, I don't think you'll find it here. Besides the obvious difference that she wasn't alone, this was definitely more travelogue than self-discovery.  This isn't a criticism of the book (I wasn't a huge fan of either of those books so it didn't bother me at all) but I mention it as a 'heads up' to avoid disappointment for those looking for a certain type of book.

The book made me very hungry while I was reading it because I love seafood! There are recipes included at the end of each chapter that looked simple to follow if you're so inclined.  I'm definitely more of an eater than a cook, plus Iowa isn't known for its wide availability of fresh fish, so I skimmed those pages.

I wish there had been pictures in the book.  I was told at our book club discussion that her blog has pictures and updates on their more recent travels but I was not interested enough to go look for myself.

She pushed herself out of her comfort zone to take this opportunity and I hope it brought her what she was looking for.  I also believe that not every relationship would be able to withstand such constant intimacy so I'm happy that the journey brought her and her husband closer together.

A Few Quotes from the Book
"In one corner: The security of a job, a steady income, a home, a daily routine - comfortable, safe, predictable.
  In the other corner: Escape from work, winter, and daily routine; the excitement and risk of the unknown - tempting, and more than a little scary."

"I've realized how disconnected my daily life had been from the natural world. The weather, the wind, the moon, even the seasons - and the attendant plants, insects, birds, and animals - came and went. But I was removed, at a distance. So what if the moon was new or the sky was pissing rain? I still had to go to the office. The natural world - in all its forms - is so much more immediate now. It forces me to pay attention."

"Shortly afterward, friends arrive at their boats and island houses, and a spontaneous party happens. But for us it's bittersweet. I know the last two years have to end, but I can't bear the thought. I don't want just to sink complacently back into our old existence. I've seen too clearly there's more to life than that."

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