The Water Here is Never Blue: A Memoir

Shelagh Plunkett. Penguin Canada/Viking (Canadian dist.: Penguin), $30 (304p) ISBN 978-0-670-06699-5
As the daughter of a Canadian civil engineer and rumored spy, whose job took him around the world, teenaged Plunkett found herself experiencing two former colonies in the 1970s, Guyana and Indonesia. In many ways the two nations seemed quite dissimilar; one a Pacific nation, the other an Atlantic nation, one majority Muslim and the other majority Christian, one harshly anti-Communist and the other socialist. Both, however, struggle with the legacies of colonialism in the context of the Cold War, and both force unity with violence. This might have been an insightful study in contrasts and similarities, but, unfortunately, because this memoir is written from Plunkett's teenaged perspective, the views it offers are limited to that of an archetypal expat, enjoying a sheltered life of comparative luxury and hedonism in the midst of whispers and inchoate misgivings. While 200,000 people die in the genocide in Timor, Plunkett is wildly distraught over the death of her beloved pet monkey. The disconnect makes this memoir a damning condemnation of how First Worlders have related to the developing world in the personal realm; and as the question of her father's activities in those countries remains unanswered, the West's political responsibility is also left unexamined. Agent: Sally Keefe Cohen. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/19/2013
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