“Uncle” Bob Harris is a world traveler, adventurer and, quite possibly, a spy for the U.S. government.
Julianna revisits her relationship with her late father’s best friend, “Uncle” Bob Harris. Julianna suffered from a rare form of arthritis that sometimes left her bedridden. Her vibrant uncle visited the family between mysterious trips to foreign locations; the rumor was that he spied for the CIA. Yet he surprised Julianna one day with an offer to travel with him, insisting that the experiences would benefit her body and mind. While in the Sahara, Julianna asked Bob to tell her his life story. He began doling out details with every trip they took together. She learned he worked in box production—editing an industry publication, selling products and acting as a liaison between American and overseas companies. His connections led to a covert gig with the U.S. State Department, for which he acquired information about a region’s need for box production facilities. Did this mean he was really a spy? More creative nonfiction than memoir, the book captures a charming, exciting personality in Bob. Julianna articulates his tales, true or not, in an engaging way. And while some moments in the book drag, specifically regarding the box industry, readers will be relieved to know the next adventure is only a few pages away. Forays to the Middle East, across Russia on the Trans Siberian Express railroads, and up Mt. Everest read like the greatest of adventures. Though these depictions are fascinating, Julianna has neglected to relate her health problems to these experiences; clearly, Bob is an interesting guy whose story is worth telling, but readers may wonder why the author felt the need to mention Julianna’s arthritis at all if she failed to follow up on the topic. The message to live life to the fullest is still clear, regardless of physical limitations.
Worth a peek for armchair voyagers.