Reviewed by Stephen Foehr (Ethiopia 1965-67)
Think of this collection of vignettes as a mixed bouquet of flowers, some colorful, some a bit wilted, a few missing petals. Lawrence Lihosit recounts strangers who became friends in his years of traveling and working from Alaska to Argentina, Honduras to California. He was a Peace Corps volunteer in Honduras (1975-1977).
The prose is suitable for scan reading—no multi-layered metaphors, or nifty timeline shifts, or illusions and allusions that require association. Lihosit tells the tales as he would to someone sitting on the neighboring barstool. No literary pretense, but rather people being themselves. So, enjoy the humanization without the polishing rub of a professional hand.
(One of Lihosit’s previous books, Years On and Other Travel Essays, was awarded Best Travel Book by Peace Corps Writers in 2012.)
The declarative prose is that of a reporter’s notebook, but Lihosit has an eye for details and color: “Near the triple wide entrance, there were rows of fresh flowers, petals glistening from the water that the vendors sprinkled on them. The air was filled with many smells: flowers, oil, coal dust, freshly chopped kindling, cooking beef, minced onions, and fish.”
The narratives are a bit loosy-goosy. I wished some story lines were extended to a cause-and-effect, or at least a consequence. The disjointed action lines often felt like a bridge to nowhere. What was not said left gaps of neglect. The skipping-stone sentences flew over opportunities to flesh out stories. But some tales, like one about visits from a friend dying of AIDS, raced along with economy.
Many of the vignettes are a travelogue of people surviving and thriving in seemingly untenable conditions. Riding a saddled bull through Bolivia’s flooded cattle country llanos is truly off the well-traveled road. I am glad Larry Lihosit brought back the story.
Reviewer Stephen Foehr (Ethiopia 1965–66) is the author of numerous nonfiction and fiction books. Visit: StephenFoehr. com.