BEYOND THE SKY AND THE EARTH by Jamie Zeppa

BEYOND THE SKY AND THE EARTH

A Journey into Bhutan
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A coming-of-age memoir by a young Canadian woman with a literary bent whose three-year sojourn in a Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas challenged her values, changed her religion, and altered her life’s course. In 1988, Zeppa, a graduate student hungry for experience and uncertain about her future, took a two-year teaching job offered by the World University Service of Canada that sent her to eastern Bhutan. The shock of isolation and privation was at first overwhelming, but Zeppa soon fell in love with her new world. Initially posted to the tiny, remote village of Pema Gatshel to teach young children, she was transferred several months later to the campus of Sherubtse College, where her students were closer to her own age and where living conditions were somewhat less primitive. It is here that her idyllic view of the Bhutanese undergoes some refinement. She becomes uncomfortably aware of the country’s political problems, of the lack of personal privacy, and of the extreme pressure for social conformity. Still enthralled by the beauty of Bhutan’s pristine mountain setting and in love with Tshewang, a Bhutanese student (she and her Canadian fiancÇ having long since parted company), Zeppa stays on for a third year. While the early portion of her story is delightful—her enthusiasm for Bhutan and its people is infectious and her descriptions of her encounters with Bhutanese culture are often funny and always enlightening” her account of her relationship with her Bhutanese lover falls flat. The ending seems rushed and unfinished. Her pregnancy and subsequent return to Canada, where her son Pema Dorji is born, her return to Bhutan, her marriage to Tshewang there in 1993, and her return to Canada—all this is compressed into a few pages. An uneven account with many perceptive, lyrical passages.

Pub Date: June 7th, 1999
ISBN: 1-57322-118-X
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 1999