Chase (100 People to Meet Before You Die, 2014, etc.) recounts a mother-daughter journey through New Guinea in this travel memoir.
The author and her 14-year-old daughter, Katherine, were walking through the jungle north of the Baliem Valley in New Guinea when they came upon a pitched battle involving Dani warriors crouching in the bush, slick with pig grease and soot, and firing arrows into the air. Chase reached for her pepper spray, prepared to defend her child, but then she realized they were witnessing a sort of play: a mock battle between two tribes trying to impress each other. It was the first of many surreal moments for Chase and her daughter as they spent a month living among the tribal cultures of New Guinea. They were there by choice to seek out a simpler mode of living: “Leaving the excess baggage of distractions and our need for material things allowed us the opportunity to learn the art of living in unpretentious ways.” They get a bit more than they bargained for, but they discover an inner strength by roughing it. Not only do they become more self-reliant, but they also learn to rely on each other in ways that they couldn’t have predicted. The numerous, full-color photographs are the book’s strongest attribute, as they document a wide swath of jungle and village life. The uneven text, unfortunately, is less compelling. Its look into the daily lives of the Papuans is interesting, but the author’s observations rarely approach profundity. She often expresses concern about the threat that the modern world poses for the ancient ways of the jungle tribes, even as her presence represents a manifestation of that threat. Although the book frames the trip as an insightful demonstration of bonding and discovery, readers may never quite shake the notion that they’re reading a comprehensive vacation scrapbook.
A less-than-thrilling story of a South Pacific island adventure.