After a lover threatens to kill her, twenty-six-year-old Cara Lopez Lee runs away to Alaska. There, she finds herself in a complicated love triangle with two alcoholics: Sean, the martial artist, and Chance, the paramedic. Nine years later, sick of love, she runs away again, this time to backpack alone around the world. They Only Eat Their Husbands is a memoir about this year-long trek - including sojourns in China, Thailand, Nepal, Greece, Italy, Spain, and Ireland - recounting with dazzling honesty and humor one woman's journey to self-discovery.
I've read many memoirs, but it's rare when an author really opens up and divulges her innermost insecurities. Cara Lopez Lee never leaves a question unanswered and brings the reader right into her roller coaster world of abandonment, commitment phobic/alcoholic boyfriends, and her colorful surroundings. I have to admit that I was looking forward to her world travels more than her story set in Alaska. But I found myself devouring the latter! Her Alaskan love triangle was so intense in its dark and cold--yet beautiful--setting. I feel like I can picture Alaska now, even though I've never stepped foot there. And of course the foreign travel parts were exciting and insightful. The title comes from a comical section of the book that took me by surprise. It's a very endearing scene and one I often thought about while I read the rest of the book. No matter your background, you'll be able to take something from this book, whether it's how to stand up for yourself, how to steer clear of an unhealthy relationship, how to trust your instincts, or how to live according to your rules. I can't wait to read her next book!
In social situations, I often see myself as the last planet in our solar system. Like the theoretical Planet X, I revolve around the periphery, I take longer than anyone else to get around, and, even if I’m part of their system, no one else knows for certain whether I exist.
It takes three things to make a good memoir: interesting life experiences, deep insight (see above excerpt), and the ability to narrate with eloquence and honesty. In They Only Eat Their Husbands (a reference to a certain species of spider), Cara Lopez Lee gives us all three ingredients of great memoir. Her early life, marked by parental neglect, abuse and abandonment, was one that few individuals could come through unscathed. In a sense, the memoir had to be written, if for no other reason then for the cathartic relief of getting all that hurt from childhood out and onto a printed page. But Cara Lopez Lee writes her story with such insight, eloquence and honesty that the finished product is a work of art, as well as a brilliant statement about life and love. There is humor in her writing (note the title), there is keen imagery. And ultimately this personal narrative, by an accomplished world-traveling journalist, author and editor, gives us an overriding truth. It’s the truth we need to know about confronting emotional pain and building strength of character upon it. And then getting to the part of life that brings satisfaction and self-acceptance.
Cara Lopez Lee penned a memoir for the adventurous women of my generation who have sought romantic love as the antidote to loneliness. More poignantly, her writing speaks to women forging their own journey to inner-strength and self-worth. Her story reads like a juicy dish of dysfunctional relationships and intrepid world travels from living in Alaska, trekking Nepal's Annapurna Circuit, to wandering ancient and picturesque villages in Italy and Spain. Lopez Lee takes you off the beaten path and deep into the territory of her own heart.
Self-effacing and physically immolating, funny, wise, and wild--as messy yet satisfying as life itself-- I can't wait to share this with my girlfriends. It's like "Eat, Pray, Love" without the sentimentality. Rather, there's a whole lot of moxie tossed into the backpack!
THEY ONLY EAT THEIR HUSBANDS is a memoir that carries the reader on two journeys. The first is a physical adventure: a travel log, if you will, around the planet. The other adventure is just as captivating. We follow the author in her quest to understand herself.
Cara Lopez Lee learns the hard way, as we all did, about what it means to be in love. About what it means to be treated well by a partner. About what it means to love herself.
Alaska, Europe, the Himalayas. Cara has a number of amazing tales in this memoir. Many of which still live with me today.
I use this book with high school students because it captures the wanderlust that lives within them along with the inspirational beauty of the human spirit.
I met Cara Lopez Lee at a writing workshop she conducted at the Denver Woman’s Press Club in the fall of 2014. She’d recently released her memoir “They Only Eat Their Husbands,” and was using a few excerpts from the book as jumping-off points to get participants writing about their own travel-related growth experiences. The workshop was excellent. Lopez Lee has a style that’s confident, approachable and relatable. Her exercises were easy to get into, and they provided the inspiration I was looking for in styling my own writing workshop.
I’m not much of a memoir reader. Perhaps this is why I feel “They Only Eat Their Husbands” is about 50 to 100 pages too long. Lopez Lee is excellent at no-holds-barred observational writing, the sort of which is especially noteworthy when applied to one’s own life, but I feel the book lacked unity. In short, not all of the numerous travel-related growth experiences she describes so well warrant inclusion in a work subtitled “Love, Travel and the Power of Running Away.” The book is alternately about love or travel, but rarely is it about the effect on the narrator of the two combined. If there’s anything that could be left out, it’s the initial scenes – I feel it’s safe to call them set-up scenes – in which she describes her upbringing with a narcissistic father and irresponsible mother, her subsequent passing-around from relative to relative, and other events that led her to embark upon a year-long globe-trot from her home in Alaska, where she worked as a TV reporter. Though Lopez Lee is from Los Angeles, she lived in Alaska - the scenes there did not speak to me of running away or travel. Of course, there was the search for love there, the longing for it with the wrong men, Chance and Sean; but Lopez Lee revisits these experiences by way of flashbacks throughout the narrative anyway. As well, her relationships with her much younger step-mother and step-sister might’ve been left out too. Though I acknowledge the value of these relationships in knowing the real Cara Lopez Lee, it is the author’s relationship to Chance and Sean and her discoveries about herself by way of this that is the make-or-break in this reader’s understanding of why she had to “run away.”
On the love theme, the episodes with Chance and Sean were infuriating. With Chance, I wanted to scream, “Can’t you see this guy’s an A-hole?!” The scenes with Sean warranted a bit more sympathy – In Cara’s “just friends” scenes with him, he is sweet and admirable. When he graduated to “hook-up” then later to boyfriend, the interaction between them became annoyingly toxic; its participants loathsome in their addiction to it. There were times when I wanted to jump through the pages and put a good choke-hold on one or both of them! Perhaps this is because I’m addictive and co-dependent; that essentially I’ve been there, done that. More to the point though, it speaks volumes about Lopez Lee’s ability to make the characters in her real-life drama compelling. If Sean and Cara weren’t so skin-crawlingly co-dependent in these scenes, they would not have elicited such a violent response from me.
Like the subtitle, the title itself seems out-of-whack with the themes. Though it refers to the narrator’s encounter with a praying mantis in Thailand and her humorous curiosity about whether or not the insect would harm her – “They only eat their husbands,” a neighbor informs – there isn’t much in the story that suggests predatory husband-eating. Rather, it would be more accurate to infer that women looking for love among alcoholics will likely fall prey to their manipulations; or that women travelling alone in male-dominated cultures might occasionally find themselves caught in an opportunist’s web. Not that I admonish Lopez Lee for going wherever and doing whatever she wants. On the contrary, I’ve travelled alone and know first-hand that getting hit-on by male chauvinists who assume alone equals desperate is but a minor irritation compared with the foot-loose, fancy-freedom of travelling solo. One of my favorite scenes is of the narrator being lured into “drinking coffee with the family” of an elderly male villager in the idyllic town of Xania, Crete. As it turns out, there is no family in this sleazy former politician’s snare; and it's soon apparent why: His trickiness is enough to drive away even the most patient and doting of old world wives!
Another favorite sequence has to do with a Spanish man of similar seniority to the Cretan trickster. After a few days of gallivanting around with him, Lopez Lee is confronted with the fact that this man is married and that their chumminess seems inappropriate in this small Spanish town. Here, I am reminded of how American the narrator is. Throughout the book, she’s more drawn to male companionship than female; and one of her remarkable “breakthroughs” seems to occur earlier, in Nepal, when she buddies up to some fellow female “trekkers” and acknowledges feeling encouraged as a result. An American woman and a loner besides, I myself have often felt more at-ease with male friends than female. Still, the co-dependent in me is well aware of the obvious benefits; i.e., the ability to flirt and manipulate, in such a tendency. Still, I couldn’t help but feel for Lopez Lee when a well-intentioned woman accuses her of indecent behavior with the gentlemanly Eduardo of Cuenca, Spain, who seems to want nothing from Cara but to share with her the beauty of his ever-changing-and-not-for-the-better hometown.
Ironically, it is in Dingle, Ireland that Lopez-Lee first acknowledges awareness of her Americanness. In a café, where musicians of English, Scottish and American heritage play folk music that is rooted in the blues, she informs the reader that this is her music, her American heritage. This was another favorite of mine. Pride in Americanness seems more appropriate to Nashville or Chicago than Ireland and I was proud of Lopez Lee for having this revelation in a less than expected place.
Unfortunately, all of the above are, for me, travel experiences that don’t necessarily correlate with Lopez’s love travails. They are eye-openers though- If nothing else, travel expands one's mind. A re-reading with my own mind open to prospective better titles might yield one more appropriate for this memoir. As for the sub-title, I've already landed on a superb one: Eliminate "Love" and "Travel" and simply call it “The Power of Running Away.”
I really enjoyed this book and didn't want to put it down. My favorite parts were the stories of Cara's upbringing and what she learned about herself while traveling. My favorite line was this one, by a character named Zeph: "You are someone who becomes lost among familiar things and can only find your way among unfamiliar things. ... It is difficult for people like us to say this place is home or that place is home."
However, I did get bogged down in the Alaska relationships. Although the couple conversations were necessary to the story, in that they established the reason Cara went on her trip around the world, some of them went on too long. I wish they had been paraphrased more. Also, this book had quite a few typos, some of which involved font and formatting problems. If the press does a second edition, I hope those problems will be addressed.
I am so grateful for books like this one in my life! What a pleasure to read and I will certainly be telling friends to pick it up as well. Aren't you just curious about the title? You have to read about halfway through the book to find out that little mystery. By that time, you will be hooked by her sense of adventure and maybe even a little envious at some of the adventures she was brave enough to have. I could not put this book down, which is strange because it's not a mystery of any kind. I was just so enjoying following not only the thread of her past relationships, but also being on the journey with her as she explored the world with an openness that is refreshing. Her insights into her soul were universal and I found myself with pencil in hand to mark my favorite quotes here and there. I look forward to her next book!
There is some great writing in They Only Eat Their Husbands, Cara Lopez Lee's travel and relationship memoir. I dog ear pages of books when a passage strikes me as particularly memorable or well constructed (never library books or borrowed books, please don't judge), but stopped in the first chapter because I realized I would have to dog ear the entire book. An insightful read - Lee isn't afraid to lay it all out there, from her sex life to a troubled childhood to farts. Single women will find her romantic entanglements especially interesting.
"Bald and puffed up from chemotherapy, with one lonely testicle as lost in its sack as a new divorce in a king size bed, he was even more difficult to resist than when he'd first turned on his blond, fit, oversexed charm."
Even though I feel like I came to understand this author and her story, I felt frustrated by her inability to choose healthy male relationships and her angst over deciding between two men of which neither was good to or for her. The world travel parts were interesting, she is a good writer with excellent descriptions and vocabulary. She says she found herself in the end through this travel. I didn't see it. Not enough of an epiphany or details about how for me.
I found it difficult to read the beginning chapters with Cara’s back story, but became deeply involved with her coming-of-age chapter, “Sheer Madness,” when she was hiking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. Many people run away from their problems, but few attain the insight Cara achieved in her physical and spiritual travels.
This is an inspiring book about a woman's search for a meaningful life, which takes her literally around the world. The author has an adventuresome spirit, both internally and externally, and her prose is lovely. Highly recommended.