Dennis Boccippio's Reviews > Beyond the Sky and the Earth: A Journey into Bhutan

Beyond the Sky and the Earth by Jamie Zeppa
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's review
Jul 09, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: travel, memoir
Read from June 19 to July 14, 2012

Two attributes of this book place it a cut above peers (genre peers, as there isn't a mountain of equivalents about Bhutan itself): first, the writing style is rich, descriptive, evocative and immersive, making it fairly easy for me to connect the narrative to the place and culture. Second, the author is absolutely honest and extremely effective at communicating the "no easy answers" reality of issues when viewed through different cultural lenses, be they development, poverty and/or cultural preservation, gender equality, independent thought vs conformism, or ethnic tensions with the Southern Bhutanese. I have only had the opportunity to experience a sliver of this when living in the post-rainforest Brazilian province of Rondonia for a month, but I can very much understand and relate to the difficulty and self questioning which arises when "easy", North American cultural or political judgments are confronted with the human realities of individuals living their lives. The author's telling of how she wrestles with these contradictions is perhaps one of the strongest and most valuable elements of the book. It will not be satisfying to some as she does not arrive at final conclusions, but I think this represents the reality of the situation.

Relative to some of the reviews, I found the writing far more self reflective than self absorbed, and any hints of the latter aren't inconsistent with the author's age when experiencing the events or writing the book, again, I think what we have is an unusually "honest telling". The transition of subject matter to politics and ultimately love story did not strike me as incongruous or unnatural, and the latter occupied a very, very small portion at the end. I didn't spot the "raunchy" section referenced in one review, so this may be a matter of personal calibration. Overall I very much enjoyed the book, finding it stimulating, entertaining, and rewarding.

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