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A STORY OF KARMA by Michael Schauch


Finding Love and Truth in the Lost Valley of the Himalaya

by Michael Schauch

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-77160-467-3
Publisher: Rocky Mountain Books

A spiritual travelogue sparked by a voyage of discovery in the Himalayas.

Canadian author Schauch’s nonfiction debut opens in 2012 in the high, snow-swept wilds of northern Nepal. There, he and his wife, Chantal,and their two Nepalesefriends and guides, IC and Ngawang, were hiking and exploring when Schauch spotted a peculiar mountain on a map and was immediately fascinated. This wasn’t just any mountain, he assures his readers: “It was the mountain. A perfect pyramid from its southwest aspect, with sheer faces and a striking ridgeline that snaked its way to a spear-tipped summit piercing both cloud and sky. It was a mountain out of a storybook.” Schauch and his wife led a small group, including a photographer, a painter, and a musician,into the Himalayas, but their expedition was far more than work to the author, who’s always considered Nepal a mystical place: “I didn't want to escape intensity but to dive into it,” he writes, “and the mountains were my portal.” In the seldom-visited valley of Nar Phu, they met a 7-year-old girl named Karma whose intelligence and inquisitiveness impressed Schauch and his wife, prompting them to help her get a formal education. This turned out to be a complicated procedure involving not just finding a Nepalese school, but also the right school—one that, among other things, would honor Karma’s traditional Buddhist beliefs. The bulk of the book goes on to tell the combined stories of the couple and the child.

Schauch has a lively and involving narrative voice, and he’s adept at conveying the combination of detail and wonder that one looks for in the best travel writing. He draws the reader smoothly into his dual narratives, and he handles both of them with skill. His choice to ground a good deal of the story in the relatively mundane environs of his home in the Vancouver area is ultimately a wise one, as it gives the more extravagant details of his overseas travelogue more color by contrast. The account of the long and complex process of securing an education for Karma is unexpectedly compelling, as are Schauch’s broader observations on the subject: “We in the West remain ignorant of how fortunate we are,” he writes at one such point. “Our children are taught to dream as big as they want.” Along the way, the author manages to work a large and well-defined cast of supporting players into the story, and he places the bulk of the narrative between two mountaineering-adventure tales, which works effectively. In addition, he shows that he has a good ear for intriguing conversation and a fine sense of pacing, and although some of his social insights can be a bit narrow—for example, he never notes that, even in the most prosperous countries, there exists even greater poverty than what Karma experienced in Nepal—his sweeping sense of adventure never deserts him. Fans of travel writing and family narratives will appreciate this work.

An intriguing tale that entwines exploration and education.