Vagabond Dreams: Road Wisdom from Central America
Ryan Murdock. Polyphemus, $10.95 paper (348p) ISBN 978-0-9573702-0-3
Murdock%E2%80%99s first book, a memorable travel memoir, introduces him as a powerful new voice in creative nonfiction. In 2000, at age 28, the unmarried Canadian, fearful of living a conventional life, sets off alone for Panama, the southernmost country of Central America, planning to work his way north in an uneasy effort to %E2%80%9Cstep off the fringes of my personal map.%E2%80%9D From the initial terror and loneliness that grip him in Panama to his personal transformation during a magical, carefree week with new friends on Nicaragua%E2%80%99s Corn Island, the author poignantly captures what it feels like to let go of culturally bred inhibitions and preconceptions. Murdock%E2%80%99s colorful depictions of the characters he meets along the way add charm. Zack Peoples, a friendly, unruffled Chicagoan, becomes Murdock%E2%80%99s likable traveling companion, as does Jake Romano, a socially awkwardly hanger-on. Romance beckons with Ivannia Gonzalez, the beautiful 19-year-old daughter of the Costa Rican family that takes in Murdock and a pair of like-minded Slovenian women. Although the author slips into occasional melodrama, his emotional ruminations on travel, friendship, and living trump the excesses of his prose and provide open-minded readers a new perspective on their own journeys.
Reviewed on: 12/24/2012