Have Fun in Burma

Rosalie Metro. Northern Illinois Univ., $19.95 trade paper (245p) ISBN 978-0-87580-777-5
Metro’s thoughtful if predictable debut is a classic bildungsroman in which a young American spends a formative summer before college in 2010s Myanmar, seeking to find herself. When Adela Frost, a New England prep school student, overhears the man at the sushi counter chanting Buddha’s words of goodwill, she is intrigued. It turns out he is an exile from the country he calls Burma, and following this encounter Adela signs up to go there with a Peace Corps–like organization called Myanmar Volunteers United. She is assigned to teach English at a remote Buddhist monastery, and, after her initial shock at the rough conditions, she genuinely connects with the monks during lessons. Adela is taken under the wing of Daw Pancavati, a nun who cares for her like a daughter, and falls for Thiha, a political exile residing at the monastery. As Adela becomes aware of the country’s religious and racial tensions, she addresses various prejudices with her students and is appalled to find even the monks profess them, especially against Muslims. When she is reassigned to teach a group of children living at the monastery, she comes up with an idea for letting the world know about what she’s witnessed, but her plan goes seriously awry. Metro’s story is overly didactic, but it is an affecting coming-of-age tale, and is perhaps most valuable for its look at Myanmar’s complicated political situation. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 04/02/2018
Release date: 03/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
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