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12,000 MILES IN THE NICK OF TIME by Mark Jacobson


A Semi-Dysfunctional Family Circumnavigates the Globe

by Mark Jacobson

Pub Date: July 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-87113-852-2
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

A Brooklyn-based journalist and novelist (Everyone and No One, 1997, etc.) takes his family on an exceptionally tedious global adventure.

Jacobson’s account of their three-month trek from Thailand to England, with extra chapters by eldest daughter Rae, resembles nothing so much as an interminable evening of slide-watching at a neighbor’s house. Readers are “treated” to inside jokes, bizarre capitalization (“So now we were back at the Burning Ghat, with The Future in tow, the Three of Them”), and self-satisfied comments (“The earth, which was round, was lucky to have us”). The family travels to India, where the three children are upset by the Varnasi cremation pyres, and to Cambodia, where they are distressed by the Toul Sleng genocide museum. Jordan is a relief: it’s clean, new, and has the advantage of being the first place on the trip where Jacobson and his wife haven’t been before. While Jacobson reflects at length about his past, and writes pages about each of the children, his wife is hardly mentioned. Her entire identity consists of having had cancer some time before the trip and having made a similar trek with her husband 20 years earlier. From Jordan the family moves on to Egypt (briefly considering relocating to Cairo), then to Israel, to France (where 16-year-old Rae finally meets up with her New York friends), and eventually to England. In between destinations, Jacobson muses about his eldest—brilliant, but failing high school; about middle child Rosalie, a self-assured 12-year-old; and about 9-year-old Billy, obsessed with computer games and sneakers. The author offers no insights save those that would be meaningful to his family, and his humor reads as arrogance: “It was one thing for Cambodians to eat tarantulas—they even ate durians, the only fruit that smelled like a busted sump pump. But a white guy eating a tarantula? This raised the stakes.”

Best left on the shelf.