WALL TO WALL by Mary Morris


From Beijing to Berlin by Rail
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 The further travels of Morris, short-story writer and novelist (The Bus of Dreams, 1985, etc.) and author of Nothing to Declare, which documented her adventures as a woman alone on the road in Central America. Morris's brand of travelogue is again unique, never a simple summoning up of pretty landscapes, but rather an intensely personal portrait of self in foreign climes, carrying a full load of emotional baggage. Beijing is her jumping-off point for a journey on the Trans- Siberian Railroad, taking her through Mongolia, over the Urals to Moscow, Leningrad, and at last to the Ukraine--birthplace of her Russian Jewish grandmother. Alas, ten days before she leaves, the Chernobyl nuclear disaster puts the later part of her itinerary in jeopardy. But she perseveres, finding China frustrating since her train tickets aren't forthcoming and she's separated from her ``companion,'' a somewhat ambivalent significant other from back in New York. Her long days on the train across Siberia are a wash of listlessness and garrulous fellow passengers. It isn't until she reaches Moscow that she realizes the Ukraine is too dangerous to attempt, particularly when she discovers she's pregnant. In Leningrad she meets refuseniks and a gentleman who wants to buy her underwear from her, since his girlfriend likes American lingerie. And finally in Berlin she accepts that she'll never reclaim her childhood by visiting her grandmother's homeland--a sorrow tempered by her decision to keep her baby, whether her companion marries her or not. This pre-glasnost travelogue is decidedly grim, solitary, and internal, hardly so high-stepping as Morris's account of her wanderings in Central America. Still, it's an interesting installment in the story of how she changes as she moves over the earth, raising expectations for a third volume documenting future journeys, perhaps with a baby on board.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1991
ISBN: 0-385-41465-X
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1991


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