In the Mountains of Heaven: True Tales of Adventure on Six Continents

Mike Tidwell, Author
Mike Tidwell, Author Lyons Press $24.95 (244p) ISBN 978-1-58574-050-5
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-1-58574-627-9
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Tidwell has long been a treasure for readers of the Washington Post's Sunday travel section--where more than half of these 19 essays were originally published (and whose readers will snatch it off bookstore shelves). While his previous book, The Ponds of Kalambayi, brought Tidwell a wider readership, this collection of his essays may find a smaller one. Still, it is a delight to have them, since in many ways they best capture his unique stylistic combination of awe and delight. Tidwell often uses a small incident to illuminate the special qualities of a culture, aiming, he explains, ""to get at what's most important and intimate about a place, to find out what things large or small make it unique, make a place home, for the people who live there."" A meeting with a surprising Vietnamese barber, for example, allows him to remark on Hanoi's favorite hairstyle and the pleasure of good conversation. ""You're the first American whose hair I've cut,"" the barber tells Tidwell while snipping his hair. ""I shot at many Americans, but never this."" Other epiphanies are provoked by the author's experiences serving as the youngest honorary grand marshal in Linz, Germany, negotiating the wilds of Lake Superior and carrying more than 250 pounds of peccary meat through the Amazon. The collection's shorter essays (each only a few pages long) are bookended by two longer pieces: a closing description of time spent among the Mbuti Pygmies of Africa and an introductory tribute to Tidwell's uncle Barry, whose love of travel in the face of great physical pain strikes a poignant note that echoes throughout Tidwell's wry observations. (Oct.)
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