EDUCATING ALICE: Adventures of a Curious Woman
Steinbach had so much fun running off to Europe to find herself, as recounted in her first book (Without Reservations ), she decided to quit her job writing for the Baltimore Sun and devote herself to similar educational adventures. Following the advice of Japanese poet Basho ("To learn of the pine, go to the pine"), Steinbach takes off again and recounts eight endeavors, including studying French cooking in Paris, attending a Jane Austen convention in England and meeting geishas in Kyoto. She captures the uniqueness of each setting, aided by a sharply curious sensibility she claims stems as much from her childhood admiration for Nancy Drew as from her reportorial training. That spirit of openness also enables her to strike up many spontaneous conversations easily, frequently launching other discoveries. A search for a bonsai garden in Florence, for example, winds up becoming a tour of several palaces normally closed to the public, which leads to an old priest's tale of rescuing priceless paintings from a flood. Yet for all Steinbach's attention to others, her account remains resolutely personal, as her experiences unleash bittersweet childhood memories, and an ambiguously romantic relationship with a Japanese gentleman is never far from her thoughts. Her stories are powerfully seductive to anyone who's ever been tempted to get up and go, following interests wherever they may lead. Even during the occasional setbacks, from language barriers to confusing geographies, Steinbach makes such a life look highly desirable. Agent, Gail Ross. (On sale Apr. 6)
Forecast: Steinbach's book could be a reading group favorite. The publisher plans to advertise and target literary and women's interest Web sites and book clubs.