MY FATHER'S ISLAND: A Galapagos Quest by Johanna Angermeyer

MY FATHER'S ISLAND: A Galapagos Quest

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An engaging, if somewhat overwritten, autobiography that recounts a young gift's coming of age on the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. Johanna Angermeyer's father, Hans, escaped from WW II Germany to the Galapagos Islands only to have his life reshattered by the war when Ecuadorean policy forced Johanna's Russian-American mother, Emma, to return to the US--where Hans, as a German national, was refused admission. Emma rejoined Hans briefly in 1947, during which time Johanna was conceived, but when Hans died a year later of TB it was alone and without ever having seen his youngest daughter. This entire period was never talked about during the author's childhood in California, and she grew up with both a vague sense that her destiny belonged elsewhere and a hunger to learn more about her ""mysterious"" father. Unfortunately, it is this latter ""quest"" that Angermeyer uses to create a backbone for her memoirs, although her own subsequent experiences on the exotic isles are much more affecting In 1961, her mother decided to move back to Ecuador with her family, to the joy of the then-14-year-old Johanna. Island life proved to be a continual struggle for survival--catching rainwater in a bucket, battling rats and impetigo--but Johanna simultaneously developed a profound love for the paradisiacal beauty and vitality of the Galapagos that she is uncannily adept at conveying. Her description of life on the island is told with an ingenuousness that is truly charming, and she never lets false dignity get in the way of a colorful recount. Angermeyer's real-life Swiss Family Robinson tale suffers from certain innocent faults--a soft narrative structure and awkward attempts at lyricism (such as ""Mary and I nestled like amiable spoons in the bed,"" or ""Twigs in the oven crackled irreverently"")--but still should appeal to a wide range of readers. At its best, her description of life on the Galapagos during the 1960's can be intoxicating.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Viking