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

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  836 ratings  ·  123 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
Paperback, 203 pages
Published April 27th 1999 by Vintage
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Average rating 3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  836 ratings  ·  123 reviews

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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.
Heather Springer
Jan 08, 2013 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
Elaine Ruth Boe
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio-memoir
I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I didn't think real letters could have such entertaining, even poetic language. The letters were easy to read, but not superficial or frivolous. My heart broke with Kate as she struggled with her students in Kenya. Hilary's descriptions of her dates and other escapades made me feel like I was there with her. These women are very clever and witty writers. I'm envious of the treasure they possess in these letters to each other. Their terms of ...more
Aug 11, 2008 rated it liked it
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.
Laura La Rocca

This book was bittersweet, thought provoking. I enjoyed it and it made me think about life and the different paths friends take in life
Oct 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: relationships
I loved this narrative of two brave, independant women finding their way in the world. Their experiences and observations tug at the heartstrings, while their turns of phrase and wit are charming and engaging. The supporting cast of "characters" are just the right mix of people for experiencing life. Beautifully done. I greatly look forward to reading more of Hilary Liftin's work.
Dec 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Utterly charming! Two best friends are separated for a year and write letters to each other. This is their unusual, revealing correspondence. Their personalities come through clearly and the reader will learn much about a couple of small villages in Africa and how things work (and don't) there.
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received this book from a friend from whom I am separated by a large land mass, not an ocean. She and this book have reminded me how much I value my friends and how challenging it is to be without them during tough times -- either mine or theirs.
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own, memoirs, nonfiction
2.5 stars.
Nov 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was a wonderful book that has stayed with me for years. If you've ever had a best friend or been a best friend, you'll relate to the separation these two endured. Just lovely.
Apr 18, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: peacecorps
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
Jun 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Corinne Wilson
I was impressed that real letters were filled with such insight and poetic language. After college, Kate gets married and joins the Peace Corps with her husband, while Hilary stays behind and has adventures in successful adulting. They're both great writers, but I confess I found Kate's missives about struggling with justice vs culture and living in horrific conditions much more thought provoking than Hilary's, though Hilary does reflect being equally lost (searching for affordable housing, ...more
Jun 22, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
May 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
When I first ordered this book I was very excited to plunge into a true story about adventure and the complexity of real friendship. Unfortunately, if like me you are looking for a heartfelt book like that then this is not the book for you. I was left wanting so much more out of Hilary and Kate's friendship. I wanted them to embrace when Kate came back from Kenya and I wanted the epilogue of the book to still show they were best friends after Kate came back a changed person and that they ...more
Dec 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 10, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
May 31, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: peace corps, friendship
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Holly Booms Walsh
Jul 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, nonfiction, travel
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 ...more
Sep 14, 2012 rated it liked it
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
May 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 04, 2013 rated it it was ok
Kate Montgomery and Hilary Liftin were college roommates. After graduation, Kate and her husband David went to Kenya with Peace Corps. Because of difficulties with their posting, they left after a year and returned to the States. The book is from the collection of letters Kate and Hilary wrote to each other during that year.
Drama! Kate and David's post was changed after a few months due to the water being unfit to drink. Their second post was only a little better - water was OK but the school
Aug 11, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir-bio
Letters sent back and forth between Hillary (finding her way in a new career in New York) and her friend Kate (volunteering with the Peace Corps in Africa) capture a year in their lives.

Good thing: Both of these ladies are very relatable - Hillary for knowing that a guy is bad for her but still pining after him and Kate for being so willing to try and help African students.

Bad thing: The epilogue didn't ruin the book for me, but it definitely flattened the enjoyment.

I enjoy epistolary novels and
Feb 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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 ...more
Feb 23, 2011 rated it liked it
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 ...more
May 11, 2007 rated it liked it
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
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Hilary Liftin is a ghostwriter/collaborator specializing in celebrity memoir. Since 2006 she has worked on fifteen books, ten of which hit the New York Times bestseller list.

Hilary has also written three books under her own name. The first, Dear Exile, is letters that she exchanged with her co-author, Kate Montgomery, when Kate was in the Peace Corps in Kenya and Hilary was in New York. It was