ALL THE RIGHT PLACES: Traveling Light Through China, Japan, and Russia by Bradley Newsham

ALL THE RIGHT PLACES: Traveling Light Through China, Japan, and Russia

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Several years ago, when Newsham's wife announced that she was filing for divorce, the 30-ish San Franciscan moved out of his apartment, tossed a few items in his backpack, and took off for the Orient. This, his first book, is a report on that ten-week flight from domestic discord. Newsham's largely hit-or-miss itinerary eventually included Japan, Hong Kong, China, Russia, and then Europe on the way home. From start to finish, everything was done ""on the cheap""--youth hostels, crowded buses, greasy chops and warm beers. There is a certain picaresque charm to the author's adventures, and, by and large, Newsham's view from ""down there"" provides telling anecdotes about local attitudes and personalities. His encounter with a group of Japanese schoolgirls at the Hiroshima Memorial is particularly moving. In Hong Kong, the author encounters Amy, an American woman who's 26 but looks 18. As she and Newsham set off into China, he wrestles with his libido and maintains a brother-and-sister relationship until, for reasons undisclosed, the two decide to go their separate ways. Then Newsham continues on to Beijing, which he hates; boards the Trans-Siberian Railroad (third class, of course), and falls in with a group of fellow backpackers for the trip to Moscow. In the group is one ""Bill,"" a self-assured, brattish sort who joins Newsham in a series of thoroughly obnoxious shenanigans in the Russian capital that are evidently intended to be amusing. They're not. On the train to Warsaw and Berlin, the pair meet a group of African and European students. During a drunken celebration, they all exchange confidences and Newsham's narrative falls into an embarrassing paean to brotherhood and international good will. Lively travel writing, but marred by the author's lapses in judgment.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1989
Publisher: Villard/Random House