An offbeat collection of stories about travelers flung to the farthest corners of the earth.
While most of the protagonists here are, in a sense, tourists, none of them are combing the souvenir stands at the Louvre or the Trevi Fountain. The author grounds the characters in situations that would be nightmares for the average vacationer, and often ends the story with an unexpected moment of beauty. In the title story, a couple on their honeymoon in the Sahara Desert are in grave danger when they find themselves six hours from the nearest oasis. As the husband is on the verge of dying from thirst, they are saved by a farmer tending a tree laden not only with fruit, but also with live goats standing on the branches. In â€œTraveling on Trains,” a man ponders his relationship with his estranged wife as he travels across China, encountering language barriers, stomach problems and other obstacles. â€œA Cambodian Tale, Part I” chronicles a father’s journey to Cambodia to find his college-dropout daughter and convince her to return home. As he shares a room in a sweltering, bug-laden hotel with another wanderlust young American, he continues to ruminate and worry about his daughter: â€œBehind him, in her dark room, Polly gasped again as though she were suffocating, and he couldn’t help but imagine if his daughter’s nights were spent like this.” In the collection’s final story, â€œA Cambodian Tale, Part II,” narrated by the daughter, she explains her decision to ditch her shallow college friends and join a charity group, and also why she eventually leaves it. The prose is occasionally clunky, and Rozgonyi tries to compensate with gratuitous description. But the author’s exploration of cultural detail is fascinating, and he places his characters in unusual, and extraordinarily interesting, scenarios. In particular, he deftly portrays how travel, especially to places so different from Western culture, effects emotional responses, for better or for worse.
A thought-provoking collection that takes the concept of travel to the extreme.