Australian born Geraldine Brooks spent many years as a foreign correspondent covering the Middle East. I loved her book, "Nine Parts of Desire" which was about Muslim women, and I have followed her life somewhat as she is often mentioned by her husband, Tony Horwitz, in his books "Confederates in the Attic", "Baghdad Without a Map," and "One for the Road." I find her an excellent reporter and in this memoir, "Foreign Correspondence," she turns the spotlight on herself.
As a child growing up in a lower middle class neighborhood on a street actually called "Bland Street", she yearned for a larger world. And so she developed pen pals. There was a girl from New Jersey, another one from France, and even one from an upper class neighborhood just a few towns away. And then there were two Israeli boys, one an Arab and one a Jew. As an adult, she found these old letters in her father's basement and, now more than twenty years later, she decided to look up each of these people. What follows is the result of her quest and some wonderful insights into world events from a personal one-on-one perspective. It was fascinating.
As a teenager in the early seventies she was aware of the new consciousness developing, even reaching her in her protective Catholic school. She had an active imagination and the gift of using words well. It's not surprising that she developed pen pals and that they influenced her life so much. Her gift of words certainly reached me too. I shared her sense of wonder and enthusiasm as she looked forward to each letter. I felt her straining to break the bonds of her loving but restrictive world. I felt her hopes and dreams and frustrations. And then, later, I shared her discoveries as she searched out the people who had meant so much to her early life. She writes with a clear voice, painting a picture with details, taking me on her quest to discover the world and eventually to discover herself. The book is short, a mere 210 pages but she sure does pack a lot into it. It's a wonderful read. Highly recommended.