Slate editor Kois (Facing Future, 2009, etc.) looks for a little quality time with the family, finding it in adventures and misadventures around the world.
“Above all,” writes the author near the beginning, “our life as a family felt as though it were flying past in a blur of petty arguments, overworked days, exhausted nights, an inchoate longing for some kind of existence that made more sense.” The answer: Uproot. Move. Go see what the rest of the world looks like while the kids are still young. Kois and his family embarked on a journey that took them from Northern Virginia to New Zealand, the Netherlands, Costa Rica, Kansas, and back again in a whirlwind year. The book doesn’t have much of a thesis, but its slightly melancholy ending might remind cinema-minded readers of the end of Bill Forsyth’s 1983 film Local Hero. There are a few set pieces and clichés but also some nicely tuned-in observations befitting a keen-eyed journalist. For example, the author writes about how in Holland, speed laws for motor vehicles are set at 30 kilometers per hour because anything more would likely doom a pedestrian or cyclist to death. So it is that people survive such collisions in Holland, which puts a nation assured of good odds on two wheels, which, thus applied to children, “helps create the kind of independence that Dutch parents prize." The America of red-state Kansas proved more fearful but not without civic virtues; refreshingly, Kois doesn’t hammer too hard on politics even though it’s clear where his views lie. Overall, the book is a minor contribution to the literature of family (and travel, for that matter), but it’s a pleasant narrative that makes few demands on readers.
Slack moments aside, this memoir of travel with a family in need of change has its pleasures.