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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
When you're too old, or don't have the finances needed to travel the world, you can do several things: you can watch TV travel documentaries; go online and read thousands of articles on places you'd like to visit; or even cross oceans and walk city streets using Google Earth. There's only one problem with all of those: none of them will take you inside the cultures, customs, and hearts of the people living there. That's what Russell Sunshine does for you with his wonderful travel memoir, Far and Away. What a treasure and pleasure it is to read the fifty true tales Russell Sunshine shares. And yes, that is his actual name. Even the story he tells about how he came to have that last name is an entertaining read, as are just about all the stories in Far and Away: True Tales from an International Life.
As an independent policy advisor in his adult years, Russell traveled through East Africa, India, China, Polynesia, just to name a few countries, encountering all kinds of people and politics, rogues, and unfamiliar customs. His sense of humor, even when facing danger, is infectious. His intellectual and political savvy is enviable. His sensitivity to human suffering is heartfelt and memorable. The reader comes away with a great sense of satisfaction, and many times more knowledgeable about those who do not live and think as we do. What we discover is often surprising but important if we are to better understand those not just outside, but within our own communities.
Far and Away is beautifully laid out and includes maps to orient us during Russell Sunshine's journeys. What adds an even richer element to this book are the large, included photos, dating all the way back to the days of his grandfather in the early 1900s. Costumes, uniforms, ships, and locations come to life in more than words as one peruses the pictures. But make no mistake: Russell Sunshine's way with words is superb. He captures deep emotions in himself and others as deftly as he does the scenery of the landscapes through which he travels. We sense the fear of his female comrades as they are being groped in a jam-packed marketplace in India. We identify with Russell's puzzlement about Laotian's seeming passivity and restraint, and we feel the pain and anger of the artist who survived life in the Gulag.
But before Russell Sunshine takes us across the continents, he eases our way into his life and personality by sharing his antics as a young child voyaging with his mother, and later as one of a group of adventurous teens stuck on a cliff face and unable to climb down. As an adult, despite including the occasional heady political and economical negotiations Russell faces in his career, once this author has hooked us, this memoir is nearly impossible to put down. Want to experience the world but can't? Pick up Far and Away and start exploring the real depths of our world in a way you'll never see on Google Earth!