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Dear Exile: The True Story of Two Friends Separated (for a Year) by an Ocean

3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  623 ratings  ·  95 reviews
A funny and moving story told through the letters of two women nurturing a friendship as they are separated by distance, experience, and time.

Close friends and former college roommates, Hilary Liftin and Kate Montgomery promised to write when Kate's Peace Corps assignment took her to Africa.Over the course of a single year, they exchanged an offbeat and moving series of le...more
Paperback, 203 pages
Published April 27th 1999 by Vintage
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River Town by Peter HesslerMonique and the Mango Rains by Kris HollowayNine Hills to Nambonkaha by Sarah ErdmanUnsavory Elements by Tom  CarterUnofficial Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook by Travis Hellstrom
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6th out of 55 books — 38 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,052)
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Heather Springer
Feb 04, 2013 Heather Springer is currently reading it
Update 1

Dear Exile is a epistolary, where two friends Kate Motgomery and Hilary Liftin, promised to write each other. The authors, Hilary Liftin and Kate Motgomery, wrote Dear Exile to show people that friendship's can last over long distances and last for life. The intended audience is for anyone who has a friendship with another. The setting takes place in Africa (where Kate is at) and in New York City (where Hilary lives.)

Update 2

In Dear Exile so far I have learned how Kate and Hilary origina...more
Rana
a charming collection of letters between two friends - one in the peace corps in Kenya and the other in the jungle of NYC. For anyone who has lived in Africa, there will be some definite identification with familiar feelings and experiences.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I'm somewhat surprised this was published, just because it isn't a fully developed story but a set of letters between two friends while one is in Kenya for the Peace Corps. Not awful but that's just all it is.
Caity
Dear Exile was, simply put, a revealing collection of letters between two young women. Kate, struggling to live in Kenya while serving with the Peace Corps with her husband, had to battle things generally perceived as some of the worst injustices in the world: beating children for not scoring well on a test they weren't prepared for by their teachers, terrible sanitation in all ways possible, lack of decent food available to those surrounding them, and, possibly worst of all, the refusal to even...more
Sarah
Jul 30, 2008 Sarah rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: peace corps, friendship
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Emilie
This book was definitely engaging. The letters between the two friends in Kenya and NYC were witty and insightful, but I had a really hard time believing that they were written in so formal a style. I like a well-written letter, but these letters included descriptive narrative that seems a bit too planned out to be spontaneous.

Having said that, whether the authenticity of the writing is plausible or not, the book is a great read....offering insights into both the world of impoverished Africa an...more
Rebecca
Mar 09, 2013 Rebecca rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in travel or female friendships; young adults
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Liz
Note: this is an old review from my blog

Just finished Dear Exile: The True Story of Two Friends Separated (For a Year) by an Ocean by Hilary Liftin & Kate Montgomery. After college Kate married David, joined the Peace Corps, and went to Africa. Hilary stayed in New York City and worked on becoming an adult.

The book is the letters they sent back and forth. They are very human letters between friends, not always recapping stories that they already know. The letters show the enduring nature of...more
Caeli
This was my first peace corps memoir I have read. Having the two friends publish their letters made it entertaining to read, I could not put this short read down! I read this book because I wanted to learn more about peace corps. I found that the age of these two women was relatable to me just finishing my degree and figuring out what to do next in my life. It was easy two ready because these women are expressing their inner thoughts in paper to each other as they cannot do in passing moments of...more
Raquel
Do you like being reminded how amazing your best friend is?
Do you sometimes wish you HAD a best friend? One who would write poems for you, ask questions like they cared, and took more time to tell you about their day than they did to check their Facebook status?

If so, this book is for you!

Dear Exhile
Both women are witty, thoughtful, and compassionate. I almost couldn't believe that the letters in this book were real; they were written with such feeling that it seems impossible these two women...more
Anna
this was the one of MANY peace corps memoirs i suffered through (reading material choices were limited to our paltry communal bookshelves in the volunteer lounge of the swaziland peace corps office).
anyway, i used to write a monthly literature review box or our volunteer newsletter, and one month i ranted about this genre. below are my thoughts:

Dissecting the Peace Corps Memoir
One of my least favorite genres of nonfiction is hands-down the “peace corps memoir.” I attribute it to both the f...more
Holly Booms Walsh
This is the good version of "chick lit" - the kind that is less about shoes and great sales at Barney's and more about the truly deep friendships that women (who are lucky enough to do so) can form. This "book" is a collection of letters written during a year's time between a girl who goes to Africa to be a teacher in the Peace Corps and her friend left behind in New York, just having graduated college and getting her first job. The NY one is a bit annoying in that her life is all about loser bo...more
Tina
Generally, I feel that books like this are kind of self-indulgent--like the authors just want to showcase how witty they are, even when writing letters that are totally not intended for publication.

I liked this for the insight about Kate's Peace Corps experience, even though it was depressing.

I think this book illustrated much of what I've read about over and over in documents written to prepare people for returning from Peace Corps. Overall, your friends and family might not really get what you...more
Alison
Jan 04, 2009 Alison rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: PCVs and family of PCVs
This is, by far, my favorite Peace Corps book. Most are flowery and overbearing in their descriptions of beauty, “Mango Elephants in the Sun” comes to mind. The title even makes me cringe. This book is between two friends – one who goes to Kenya with her husband to teach and the other who lives life in New York.

I read this once during Peace Corps and was lucky to find it hiding in a stack of books at the recent library book sale for $1. As I read it again, it struck me how many stories were sim...more
Jessie Weaver
This book is a collection of letters between two friends: one in NYC and one who is teaching in Africa. (It’s nonfiction.) I wasn’t blown away by it or anything, but it was interesting, especially to see the juxtaposition of the two.
Joselle173
While Kate (and her husband) are in the Peace Corps serving in Kenya and Hilary is in NYC living Sex in the City (or so it seems), they correspond to each other. The book is a compliation of their letters to each other. While the reviews of the book seemed to indicate the book is a deep exploration into friendship and modern women's lives, I found it to be less in-depth. The letters felt more like two women bantering back and forth, even about serious things. They are definitely witty, humorous...more
Robin
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tayla
Aug 22, 2007 Tayla rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the Peace Corp
Shelves: bookclub
This was an interesting read. It consists of letters written between two college friends. One serving in the Peace Corp in Africa, the other working some vaguely described office job in NYC. The juxtaposition is inherently appealing and it makes for a pretty quick and interesting read. I somewhat question the claim that these are the original letters, though. To my mind there must have been some editing/embelishment, but I may just be a cynic. A great read if you're thinking about the Peace Corp...more
Bridget
May 15, 2011 Bridget rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Bridget by: Jill
While I was reading this book I couldn't help but think of my best friend Eli and I. We live so far apart (well not far enough for an ocean to separate us, but a sizable amount of land) and are both trying to figure out who we are and how we can make a difference in the world. I throughly enjoyed this book. Every time I send a letter or postcard I think of how it would be a really cool primary source fifty years from now. I know journaling can have the same effect but writing letters seems to op...more
Kelly
It was a quick read, but very moving. The accounts of what 2 peace corps volunteers witness and experience in Kenya can be bizarre, gross, and sad, but they can also be inspiring, silly, and uplifting. The experiences of the girl in New York are a reminder that despite the turmoil on the other side of the world, life goes on here in America. We take many things for granted. It also reminds us that your own pain is not always lessened by empathizing with someone else. Perspective sometimes just m...more
Ml
letters are cool.
Mandi
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
cindy
Letters between two college roommates, one who upon graduation joins the Peace Corps with her husband and moves to rural Kenya, and the other who moves to Manhattan and tries to find love and success in the big city. There were some passages that reminded me of conversations that I had with good girlfriends, and it was comforting to see the womens' friendship which helped them get through anything, whether online dating or corruption in rural Africa.
Alison Dotson
This was a good book. It was a compilation of letters two real-life friends wrote to each other while one was in the Peace Corps in Africa for a year. I read it years ago, but what sticks out in my mind the most is that the woman who lived in New York City wrote less frequently and complained more even though her friend was living in poverty and getting sick while trying to help people. She kind of drove me nuts, but all in all it was a good read.
Kristen
I read this book with a very good friend while I was at home on vacation from Peace Corps. We were taking a road trip and we read the letters out loud to each other along the way. It was really interesting to be experiencing the process of being in touch with a friend while reading about someone else doing the same thing.

It was interesting to see so many of my thoughts and feelings reflected back to me in someone else's writing.
Lauren
This may be my favorite book of all time. Maybe it was just the time I was reading it, but it spoke to me so specifically. I could have easily written this book about some of my friendships and separating when we went off to college and all of that. Plus, since it's written in letter form, it's easy to pick up and re-read just certain parts when you want. My friend and I sent this book back and forth to each other to read.
Cara
Dear Exile is a series of letters sent between two friends over a year, one in New York and the other in Africa. Both women in their 20s trying to figure out the world and their place in it, their air-mail exchanges capture similar emotional peaks and valleys within very different physical settings.
Kim
Disheartening but true. It's hard when you try to take a snapshot of an experience like the Peace Corps. Hopefully readers will understand that it doesn't represent everyone's experiences.

Really loved the quick humor and real emotions of the friendship. I actually laughed out loud at a few points. The contrast between what the two friends were going through was perfect.

A good read but not a must read.
Erica
A very quick read... you could easily read this in a day... I enjoyed reading the story (though letters) of Kate and Hilary, who were college roommates and best friends. Kate is a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya and Hilary is trying to find her place in the world in NYC. I always enjoyed writing letters myself and receiving them from others, so it was a great way to learn about their lives.
Sara
This was the type of book that I read and then wanted a friend to move far away so we could do the same thing! I liked reading about the friendship of these two women and their struggles during their time apart. Kate's story was particularly intriguing because I have so little knowledge about education in Africa. It kept me reading, which I was concerned about with the all letters format.
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