A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO PARADISE by Alex Sheshunoff

A BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO PARADISE

9 Steps to Giving Up Everything
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A crestfallen 20-something techie leaves everything behind for a new life on a tropical island.

Sheshunoff’s hybrid of travelogue and anecdotal memoir embodies the dream of giving it all up to escape to paradise. This fantasy of “sitting on a small island and reading all day” was borne from a smoldering combination of a flat-lining romantic relationship and New York City burnout, exacerbated by a frustrating five-year stint at his own struggling, soul-sucking Internet startup business. Abandoning everything related to his former life in technology, Sheshunoff fled to the island of Yap (pop. 6,300, with a “growing leprosy problem”), part of the tropical Caroline Islands of the Western Pacific Ocean, and began living among the region’s indigenous citizens. “I wanted this to be one of those instances when you discover how another culture does something better,” writes the author about the shockingly weighty Yapese stone money, topless native women, and the lenient island dress code. Sheshunoff’s ensuing Micronesian education, presented with great wit and composed through easily digested chapters, is unconventional, goofy, and rife with misadventure. As his idyllic days in the sun progressed, reality seeped in, and the author began to further contemplate his situation. He began to cultivate a romance with Sarah, an American attorney who tempered his tendencies to pontificate while swimming in historic Jellyfish Lake surrounded by a vast universe of jellyfish, “six million friendly cantaloupes in pink tutus…slowly pulsing their way across [the] small, tea-colored lake.” The couple’s eventual decision to build a bungalow together on a different outer island cemented their island fling into a relationship, which included a baby monkey named Gomez. Though the chatty narrative meanders along at a beachcomber’s pace, armchair travelers won’t mind, as the author’s absurdist sense of humor validates the verbosity.

A sincerely funny debut memoir extolling the benefits of spontaneous escape and personal reflection.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-451-47586-2
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: NAL/Berkley
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2015




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