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Kiss the Sunset Pig: An American Road Trip with Exotic Detours [Paperback]

Laurie Gough
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Mar 2005
As we get older, we grow these shells around our hearts and minds, shells which young people don't have yet. If only we could keep that openness all our lives, that belief the world is shot through with blazing stars. Laurie Gough is heading west across the USA in a beaten-up old car named Marcia, hoping this is a homecoming to the land of her dreams. Back in her early twenties, she stayed in a cave on a California beach for six days and found purpose in her life while listening to waves in the moonlight. The trouble is, she's lost the enthusiasm she had back then. As she makes her way slowly across the country, meeting a colourful variety of hitchhikers and mechanics and waltresses, she recalls the adventures she's had in different places around the world - Sumatra, the Yukon, Korea, Thailand, Greece and Jamaica - trying to discover where she lost her younger, more free-spirited self. As she closes in on her destination, she peels back the layers of cynicism that life built up around her, and finds that our old selves may be inside us, if we only bother to look.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Summersdale (1 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1840244887
  • ISBN-13: 978-1840244885
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 13 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,106,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A curious traveller with a good ear for dialogue and a wild way with words. -- Anthony Sattin

An engaging storyteller... Reading this book is like travelling all over again. -- Don George,

Gough has a gift for self-deprecatingly wry humour... a true gem. -- Winnipeg Free Press, Canada

Inspiring, funny and touching. -- Isabel Losada

Kiss the Sunset Pig - a frequently funny, sporadically profound account of Laurie Gough's drive west across America. -- Traveller magazine

Kiss the Sunset Pig is elegant, funny and poignant. I couldn't bear it to end. -- Polly Evans

Reading this book was like spending a glorious weekend reminiscing with a funny, intelligent, and well-travelled friend. -- Real Travel


Laurie Gough manages to be both relaxed and inspiring, funny and touching, energetic and gentle all at the same time. A reassuring commentator on our bizarre world, Laurie appreciates and enjoys humanity.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I was overwhelmed 5 Jan 2008
by just how good this book actually is. I bought it as research for my own travel book, and am used to reading books very quickly and enjoying them, but this one stood out head and shoulders above the rest. Not only does Laurie write brilliantly, bringing her road trip across America alive, her insights are profound. She interweaves her trip with other memories from her magical travel experiences, a luminous canoe trip in the Yukon, a chaotic bus ride across Sumatra and many others. The stories are like beads, which glint whichever way you turn them. At the end of the trip not only has Laurie gained in understanding, she has realized why she loves to travel - and perhaps why it might be time to put down some roots. Together, with Jamie Zeppa she is an excellent young Canadian writer from Ontario, but they are both so much more than that, having depth and profundity. I couldn't recommend this book more highly.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Well written and fun 4 Sep 2013
By sos
This book grabs you as soon as you start reading it. The memoirs of travelling to different countries interwoven into the drive from Canada to California are fascinating. You will find yourself playing the song California by Joni Mitchell. I couldn't help feeling sorry for her poor boyfriend though, he sounded so perfectly lovely. It is a shame she has not written any more books since this one (2005) to relay what happened after these events, as the epilogue is too short snd sweet. I have ordered her first book about Fiji and look forward to reading it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Intrepid Traveller 4 Jan 2008
By Story Circle Book Reviews - Published on
Laurie Gough is an intrepid traveller with a youthful exuberance for adventure. I realize, though, that no matter what one's age, some people are born with wanderlust and have a need to travel the world. The interesting thing is, travellers always return home. That's what Gough does. She's been to thirty countries, hitchhiking thousands of miles by herself though fourteen of them. But she always returns to her hometown of Guelph, Ontario in Canada.

At the beginning of Kiss the Sunset Pig, Gough sets off for California from Guelph in a "blue, beat-up mini Ford Bronco" she calls Marcia. To help with driving and expenses, she picks up a travelling companion named Debbie, whom she has met through an ad and, before the trip begins, has only spoken to on the phone. Debbie gets dropped off in St. Louis, Missouri, at the home of a boyfriend she has never met face to face.

"Sometimes I think I'm still looking for an axis," Gough writes early on in her journey. After reading her book, I think the axis may be the wanderlust. It's who she is. For a person with wanderlust, there is no perfect place to live. A place may seem ideal, for a time, but really it's just a base at which to prepare oneself for the next adventure.

Reading about her encounters with strange and wonderful people is frightening at times (for the reader and for her), but I realize travelling with a companion or in a group, as I usually do, one is not open to the same exciting possibilities. Travelling solo, Gough finds herself talking to strangers more readily as she's more open and more herself. "That's the thing about travelling: it's like peeling away a layer of yourself, exposing yourself to the world so it can expose itself to you".

The structure of the book is an interesting one that works extremely well. (She did the same in her first book, Kite Strings of the Southern Cross, which I highly recommend.) Rather than write a book of travel stories in chronological order, Gough reflects on previous journeys as she drives across the United States in a car that needs lots of garage visits along the way.

One of those reflections is the Greek island of Naxos. There Gough created a temporary home under a small bamboo wind shelter on the beach. Her backpack went missing for a time and to ease her panic, she looked at the "dependable milky rock" of the moon. Gough realized things like that didn't matter "in the great scheme of the universe" (she had her passport and money), and I realize too, as a traveller, one needs to practice non-attachment. Gough describes Greece beautifully as a "land where myth and reality swirl around each other in a luminous haze." Yet she needed to move on, "to see the rest of the world."

One summer, Gough hitchhiked to the Yukon, 3,000 miles from Guelph. She says hitchhiking is "always a surprise study of human beings." Her travelling companion Kevin told her of his own world adventures. His advice was "You have no idea what's in store for you, but if you let yourself go along with the flow of the unknown and accept whatever happens, things seem to work out".

The "exotic detours" of which Gough writes don't all have happy endings. Her teaching job in Kashechewan in Canada's sub-Arctic ended after only three months with Gough defeated and exhausted by the chaos of a third-grade class. A trip to Jamaica with her sister ended quickly, as Gough likes to stay with locals while her sister prefers fancy hotels.

Gough is full of questions about where she belongs. Those questions don't at all detract from the book; they help us relate. After all, travel is about looking for oneself, and as travel-book readers, we get to reflect on similar questions.

On her trip to California, Gough plays Joni Mitchell's "California" that includes the phrase "kiss the sunset pig." She carries a tattered notebook called "Cave Journal" and would like to find that cave on the Pacific again, where she spent some time thirteen years previously. Along with her questions and her longing, Gough has a healthy sense of humour about her encounters along the way. She describes a town on the Great Plains called Grainfield as the "size of a bath mat."

At an earlier age, Gough described herself as "still on my way to everywhere." She has learned that travel can mean "hours, even days of despair, rain, heatwaves, snow, mosquitoes, late trains, no trains, followed by a single moment of dazzling elation. It was those single moments one tended to recall." Gough makes some realizations at the end of her California trip that I don't want to reveal here. But I would say, even though she is older and perhaps wiser, I still see her as on her way to everywhere.

Gough has married since the stories written about in her book and has a baby son. They divide their time between a farmhouse outside of Guelph, Ontario, and a Quebec village. Seventeen of her stories have been anthologised in various literary travel books, including's Wanderlust: Real-Life Tales of Adventure and Romance and Sand in My Bra: Funny Women Write from the Road. She has written for the Los Angeles Times, the Globe and Mail, the National Post, Outpost, Canadian Geographic and numerous literary journals.

by Mary Ann Moore
for Story Circle Book Reviews
reviewing books by, for, and about women
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Journey: Heart and Mind, Body and Soul 14 July 2008
By Anastasia - Published on
When I opened 'Kiss the Sunset Pig' I was expecting a travel book, which it is ... and a great one at that. What I wasn't expecting was how much it would touch my soul. I sat, riveted, as I took a journey not only around the world, but across thoughts, hopes, dreams. Anyone who's ever questioned whether, with the whole world to choose from, they're living their lives in the best place or whether they've filled their lives to the very best of their ability, will find a resonating spirit in this book.
As Laurie Gough makes her way from Canada and across America she hopes not only to settle happily in California, but to find the coastal cave that she lived in for six nights, years ago. But the search is not so much for the cave itself, as for the more free-spirited (she believes) girl that lived there. As she drives, she recalls previous travels in the Greek islands, the Yukon, Jamaica, Sumatra, and Seoul, to name a few. These tales can't fail to inspire. Her bravery alone, traveling solo through often uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous, situations is humbling to say the least. But it's this bravery she feels has been lost and she hopes to rekindle by finding her cave.
Several times the author seemed to wander into places I thought only existed in my daydreams. Some were so uncanny they made me gasp. Since childhood I have wanted a glass-walled bedroom perched on the top of a house, entirely surrounded by trees. I clapped my hands in delighted envy when the author set up home in just such a room ... and in a Californian Redwood forest at that. These instances were some of the most poignant for me - the fact that daydreams can so easily be reality if you go out and make them so ... that really hit home.
The travel stories are touching, humourous, enchanting, and filled with travel's usual mix of discomfort, frustration, alarm, and achingly beautiful encounters. All are told with the author's clear natural gift for portraying the lightness and the depth in every situation.
So if the idea of sleeping in a coastal cave, inside a Californian Redwood, on a Mediterranean beach, or on the banks of the remote Yukon river lights something intangible inside, I wholeheartedly recommend you read 'Kiss the Sunset Pig' and let inspiration rain over you.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I Could Relate 10 Oct 2011
By seagypsy - Published on
As a young female traveler, Laurie has a unique perspective. I felt like I was reading a letter from my best friend. Adventure and girl talk. Being attracted to a cute guy until he reprograms your car radio to country music. Fights with your sister who doesn't understand you and makes a lot more money than you do. Asking yourself why you are travelling in the middle of nowhere while everyone else has stable lives. Taking jobs, traveling to Jamaica at the drop of a hat, camping in a cave along the beach. Thinking, writing, dreaming. Searching for something. Seeing great beauty in nature. Taking chances and living life deeply. Not many people can write like that.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Voyage 17 May 2010
By Canuck - Published on
I read this wonderful, touching, funny book in one long sitting. It was like going on a voyage with a friend. I especially enjoyed Gough's reflections on how our experiences change us, so that sometimes we hardly recognize who we've become. Highly recommended!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it so much ! 1 Sep 2008
By Avid reader - Published on
that I am looking for her next book :)....what a great (yet) readable book !
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