Wheeler, Sara. Travels in a Thin Country: Journey Through Chile. Modern Library, 1994.
Reason read: Chile’s independence was gained in April 1818. Although the official date of celebration is September 18th every year. Note: I could have started this earlier because Wheeler’s birthday is in March.
I think our desire for travel can be summed up by one of Wheeler’s first sentences in Travels in a Thin Country, “Our collective ignorance appealed to my curiosity” (p 3). It’s the reason most of us want to travel, to abolish an innate ignorance of the world around us. I admired Wheeler’s bravery for jumping into a journey down Chile’s entire length, all the way to the Antarctica end, without a solid plan in place. Her travel is motivated mostly by the seat of her pants and held up by the kindness of strangers. Interwoven in the adventure is a strong sense of political and cultural history of the region. I wanted photography to back up Wheeler’s gorgeous descriptions of the people and landscapes she traveled through. On a personal note, I found it vaguely romantic that Wheeler tried to travel in a jeep for nearly her entire journey. Her trusted loyalty to Jeep could have been a commercial.
As an aside, I had to look up where in New York Southampton is located even though I had a grandmother who lived on Long Island. Because Wheeler said upstate New York she had me doubting my geography. How sad is that?
Favorite lines, “we rubbed our favorite arguments threadbare” (p 189) and “there were two men in the bar, drunk beyond all sense of time and place” (p 261).
Author fact: I’m sorry that I looked up Wheeler on the web. I found several sites that made mention of the abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of her husband all because she admitted she had an affair. For me, that painted an unfair picture of Ms. Wheeler. Unfair, because the entire time I was reading Travels in a Thin Country, as she was describing the travels to different places with different men, sharing jeep rides and tents, I had to wonder if she was sleeping with them along the way. As the pages went on, I couldn’t help but notice that most of her traveling companions were men even if women were in the picture.
Book trivia: Travels in the Thin Country is Wheeler’s second nonfiction. I am also reading Terra Incognito, Too Close to the Sun, and An Island Apart for the Challenge.
Playlist: Ry Cooder, Edith Piaf, Fine Young Cannibals, Pink Floyd, Violetta Parra, Beethoven, Claudio Arrau, Talking Head’s “We’re on the Road to Nowhere,” “Jingle Bells,” “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music,” “Bach’s St. Matthew Passion,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and “Take Heart, Joe, My Love,”
Nancy said: Pearl called Travels in a Thin Country a treat and the best travel account she could find of Chile.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “It’s Chile Today” (p 144).