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BAD KARMA by Tamara Sheward


Confessions of a Reckless Traveller in Southeast Asia

by Tamara Sheward

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2007
ISBN: 978-0-89733-565-2
Publisher: Academy Chicago

The author’s recollections of an off-the-beaten-path vacation of sleazy situations.

Australian native Sheward originally believed “Khmer Rouge was an oddly named cosmetic, Pol Pot simply the chorus in a Dead Kennedys song.” She and best friend El picked their destination after meeting a stranger who advised that mainland Southeast Asia was the final frontier not overrun by foreigners. So the pals tramped across Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, leaving in their wake a trail of empty beer bottles, cigarette butts and maligned waitresses and Fanta vendors. Sheward spends 300-plus pages making fun of every English-speaking traveler they came across. She also depicts locals in the service and tourism industries as wildly unprofessional—though not all of them, mercifully, in quite as unflattering light as the obese female innkeeper in rural Thailand who allegedly refused the women a room after the author rebuffed her sexual advances. The friends avoided being wrongly arrested and serving time in a Bangkok prison à la Bridget Jones, but comparisons to chick lit are inevitable. Not that this book reads like a novel, but Sheward’s version of events has clearly been exaggerated. Slogging through this farrago of absurdities is like watching a documentary projected onto a fun-house mirror. Truth seems secondary to Sheward’s primary goal of entertaining readers. They’re more likely to be put off by the sense of entitlement displayed when El spews vitriolic demands at a Pizza Hut server while her buddy laughs madly. First-time author Sheward writes energetic prose and displays a keen appreciation for inane details, but her fluffy book is basically a parade of politically incorrect anecdotes.

Hilarious in flashes, but more often sloppy, off-putting and boring.