A memoir details the author’s world travels and diverse responsibilities as a United States Information Agency officer.
Luchs’ (Children of the Manse, 2009) book explores “the behind-the-scenes activity and the lives of diplomats and their families,” using his own “experiences as examples.” After passing the rigorous examination needed to get a position in the foreign service, Luchs began his career in 1966 and was soon posted to a position in Madagascar as a junior officer in training. Upon arrival, however, he found the embassy understaffed, and he was immediately given responsibility “for the direction of the economic and commercial, consular, and USAID offices of the embassy.” This was a lot for a young staffer, but Luchs threw himself into his work and was mostly successful in dealing with his many duties and, memorably, a very spoiled American traveler who tested Luchs’ patience. In 1968, the officer and his family moved to Mali for his next posting, where he toiled in a country with a decidedly anti-American atmosphere due to its socialist government and then worked through the country’s military coup. His next stop, in 1970, was Singapore, where he got to witness the nation as it began to modernize and turn into the financial hub that it is today. In 1976, Luchs received an unexpected opportunity at the Paris office, one that was personally rewarding but professionally frustrating—the place was a hotbed of rivalries and lacked focus. By 1984, he was in Malaysia, focusing on the educational exchange between that nation and the United States, and he then finished his career in Australia, culminating in the organization of a visit by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. Throughout the absorbing book, Luchs shares captivating geographical and historical tidbits about every country he worked in (A “key to Singapore’s success was the government’s zero tolerance of corruption”). He extensively and lovingly discusses his family, his living arrangements and vacations, and the various political and personal problems that he had to deal with at every stop, from a Navy helicopter landing in “the most public place in Singapore” during the Vietnam War to his son receiving a juvenile diabetes diagnosis. Luchs’ tone remains informative and heartfelt throughout, and the reader gains trenchant insights into an intriguing profession.
An engrossing look at a wide-ranging career in the foreign service as well as a sweeping story of a globe-trotting life.