A woman recounts her youthful years traveling and living in Europe.
Inspired by a shoebox of old letters she’d written to her mother, Eyerman (Women in the Office: Transitions in a Global Economy, 2000) recalls her footloose years during the 1970s and early ’80s in Europe and North Africa as a young woman escaping a childhood in Columbus, Ohio. She mainly went to places where she had some sort of personal connection, however tenuous, so that acquaintances could help her stay on the cheap. After a visit to Yugoslavia, she headed to Italy for three months and then moved on to France, where she found lodgings with the help of a friend’s sister and tried to get on the good side of a haughty French matriarch named Madame Gravois. From there, it was off to Spain, where a woman from Brooklyn unexpectedly appeared on her doorstep and moved in, then to Morocco, where Eyerman found a bare apartment on the Rue d’Amour above two women who turned out to be prostitutes. Soon, she departed that noisy, hot and hellish country: Young boys sifted through garbage for profit and tortured cats for fun, and she endured bad plumbing that “did not make for regular bowel movements,” especially after she contracted worms. Then it was on to Greece, including Olympia, “home of the gods and athlete’s foot,” and misunderstandings and mix-ups with the locals, till finally she returned to Spain and bought a run-down, rat-infested house for a low price. Though little of import occurs in this tale, Eyerman’s eye for detail and remorseless sense of humor help her weave a funny story about the joys and complications of travel abroad. The landscape, the characters who inhabit it, and the American expats and tourists who infest it all come alive under Eyerman’s acerbic, cynical but nevertheless forgiving eye. Like an entomologist preserving beetles in a bottle, she catalogs national quirks and peculiarities as she passes through each country and on to the next. For many readers, this pleasurable read will beat the expense and hassle of actually traveling.
A keen eye combines with an easy writing style in these chronicles of fish-out-of-water exploits and cultural misunderstandings, all seasoned with plenty of salty wit.