when-things-get-darkWhen Things Get Dark: A Mongolian Winter’s Tale by Matthew Davis (Mongolia 2000–02)

Davis, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, recounts his two eventful years as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching in a small Mongolian town in his knowledgeable yet convoluted memoir. As a 23-year-old Midwesterner, nothing prepared him for the former Communist satellite, which is largely rural and teeming with the legacy of the Great Khan, yaks and goats being herded on the rugged steppes. Davis sees a landscape on the brink of change and a young population eager for a better life depicted in Internet cafes and media from the outside world. Yet the isolation and culture shock plunge him into “a dangerous place psychologically,” and alcohol abuse and mayhem result in a brutal drunken fight. Other than some standard travelogue facts on Mongolian history and culture, Davis is correct when he concludes that his brief Mongolian journey was like “a flutter of an eyelid” and subsequently will feel the same way to the reader. (Feb.)