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To the Moon and Timbuktu: A Trek Through the Heart of Africa [Hardcover]

Nina Sovich
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
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Book Description

9 July 2013
Nina Sovich had always yearned for adventures in faraway places; she imagined herself leading the life of a solitary traveler. Yet at the age of thirty-four, she found herself married and contemplating motherhood. Catching her reflection in a window spotted with Paris rain, she no longer saw the fearless woman who spent her youth travelling in Cairo, Lahore, and the West Bank staring back at her. Unwittingly, she had followed life’s script, and now she needed to cast it out.

Inspired by female explorers like Mary Kingsley, who explored Gabon’s jungle in the 1890s, and Karen Blixen, who ran a farm in Kenya during World War I, Sovich packed her bags and hopped on the next plane to Africa in search of adventure.

To the Moon and Timbuktu takes readers on a fast-paced trek through Western Sahara, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger, bringing their textures and flavors into vivid relief. On Sovich’s travels, she encounters rough-and-tumble Chinese sailors, a Venezuelan doctor working himself to death in Chinguetti, indifferent French pensioners RVing along the coast, and a close-knit circle of Nigerien women who adopt her into their fold, showing her the promise of Africa’s future.

This lyrical memoir will transport you to the breathtaking landscapes of West Africa, whose stark beauties will instill wonder in even the most experienced traveler. Sovich’s journey reveals that sometimes we must pursue that distant glimmer on the horizon in order to find the things we value most.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 308 pages
  • Publisher: New Harvest; 1 edition (9 July 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0544025954
  • ISBN-13: 978-0544025950
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 14.9 x 2.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 291,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Sovich's journeys are page-turning and suspenseful. Her travels are uncomfortable, often frightening, always illuminating and so beautifully conveyed that the reader feels present, as if she herself is watching a sunrise over the Nile." —Bookpage

"In her astute travel memoir, Sovich examines the dilemma so many women face: how to choose between a life of domesticity and one of adventure. An engaging, suspenseful, deeply philosophical anatomy of the process of making—and making peace with—life's major choices." —Rosemary Mahoney, MORE Magazine

"An epic journey." —Elle

"In a world of thousands of travel blogs, with blank spaces on the map that have been mostly filled in, Sovich proves that the question is not whether the travel genre has already been done but if it can still be done well. In Timbuktu, she does it well — and gets some answers along the way." —Washington Independent Review of Books

"Has a place ever gotten more mileage out of its name than Timbuktu? Nina Sovich also fell under the city's spell as a child, when her father referred to it in passing. Her long, fitful pilgrimage is the subject of her first book…[which] has its share of quietly appealing scenes and crisp observations." —Wall Street Journal

"To the Moon and Timbuktu traverses the wide open expanses of the desert and the interior labyrinths of the travelling id with a lyrical, wonderful and heartfelt generosity of spirit. Nina Sovich is a new kind of travel writer: honest, open and brave. Here are the soaring vistas and the warm funny details that would draw us all to the open road and up-and-down adventures along the way. I loved every page."—Wendell Steavenson, writer for The New Yorker and author of Stories I Stole

"Nina Sovich's spare, uninhibited writing blasts through journalistic cliches. There are sentences that recall Andre Gide's The Immoralist. Her soaring description of the Niger River in Mali is exactly as I experienced it. Her description of Mauritania's utter desolation makes me want to go there." —Robert D. Kaplan, author of The Revenge of Geography

"In reading To the Moon and Timbuktu I constantly had to fight off the call to pack up my suitcases and book the next flight to Bhutan, Iceland or Laos. Nina Sovich’s luscious, intelligent and deeply philosophical memoir of a solo trip to the almost-mythical land of Timbuktu reminds me of my own wild side. She is the perfect companion to this faraway place—equal parts questing, compassionate, graceful and literary. She reminds us that it is in exploration that we find freedom, humanity and our true selves again." —Alison Singh Gee, author of Where the Peacock Sings: A Palace, a Prince, and the Search for Home
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Over the past decade, NINA SOVICH has written for The Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor, TIME, Fortune Small Business, and The Patriot Ledger. Most recently she was a wire reporter at Dow Jones and then at Reuters in Paris where she covered everything from fashion shows to banking reform.

--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent power 8 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
There are people who write to tell a story; some who write to put across a point of view; and some use the process of writing to discover things about themselves that they did not know. This last category contains many examples of hopeless self-indulgence and self-deception, but on rare occasions an honest and painful struggle is expressed in clear liquid prose that not only provides illumination to the writer, but may enable the reader to know the writer better than they do themselves.

Sovich is born into a life of financial security and comfort, but learns from her restless mother that although these things are central to their way of life, they have their price. Her mother tinkers at the edges with the self-indulgent slumming of the idle rich, but always returns to the nest. As Novich matures into an adult she follows her mother's restlessness with adventures of her own - but also always returns. By her early thirties she is married to a man who loves her deeply, and whom she loves in return . . . but it is not enough. She decides to emulate her mother, but to the extreme: not just a few weeks slumming, but a solitary and hazardous journey through wild and unknown parts of Africa. She returns, falls pregnant, goes out one last time.

For all the tribulations of her journeys, she is, because of her wealth, never more than a cab-ride from an airport and a plane home. However, what makes this memoire stand out from the countless hippy-trail indulgences of the other comfortable middle-class travellers she meets, is the honesty and clarity with which she describes her dilemma. She seeks to find herself herself by solitude and danger and trial, but the things she is running away from are in her own head.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I liked the mix of travel book and reflection.i feel I now know more about Saharan Africa and the way of life there.the book shows love and sympathy for the people there and also a way of life we can learn from.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
By max
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Even if I am not a woman I could understand her feelings in all the adventures in West Africa. She has been there even when she was pregnant! Amazing, human, beautiful background
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing inward and outward journey 29 Aug 2013
By Niki Collins-queen, Author TOP 500 REVIEWER
Nina Sovich's memoir "To the Moon and Timbuktu" is a breathtaking solo adventure across North Africa. It's also a quest to find a balance between adventure and solitude, security and love. Nina said too much solitude made her crazy whereas too much security lead to restlessness.
Unhappy with herself, her marriage and work at Dow Jones, Nina at age 33, left her year long life in Paris to trek through Western Sahara, Mali, Mauritania and later Niger. She said life in Paris had become hard, her work drained her and left her scattered and she'd lost her ability to read signs of love from her husband who worked twelve-hour days.
Nina, originally from Connecticut, mostly attended boarding schools in her early years while her Swedish mother took long sojourns around the world. Her American father, like her husband, worked twelve-hour days at his dental practice.
Nina's beautiful prose flow like the Sahara Desert - the stark beauty of landscape, the fascinating people, dusty towns and heartbreaking poverty. The town of Ségou on the Niger River was the most beautiful. She said, "the Niger here is clean and light, empty of industry and people stretching nearly a third of a mile across. Brown grass sways in a light wind and mango trees cluster by the river like old women at a well...A white crane swoops near the water, loses sight of his prey, and pulls up into a high arch before cutting out over the savanna...There is nothing but golden savanna and swaying trees as far as I can see. This isn't Eden. This is the world after humans have passed on and God has returned to the earth."
If Ségou is heavenly, Djenné, the next town, is hellish. Nina says, "It was as though the gods wanted to pull me back down to earth.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good read! 22 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book immensely. I bought it because the areas the author describes her travels within are places I have visited and worked in some years previously. Nina Sovich found little changed from 20 years ago when I was in the same places. I loved the book it was well written tremendous detail, and showed a sympathetic view of the peoples she met during her journeys.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite what I was expecting. 31 Dec 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was attracted by Africa but the book was all about herself and her confusion and the few people she meets along the way. Pretty grim part of Africa, barren, inhospitable with little habitation. Clearly somewhere to be avoided.
At the time she was there it was relatively peaceful with only rumblings of trouble but since then it has erupted with the Islamic threat and suggestions it will be the new Al Qaeda front.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed the read and now know a bit more about that part of Africa.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely Intriguing 5 April 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I downloaded this Kindle book as a bargain deal last Christmas. For that reason I thought it might not be up to much but was willing to take a chance. How wrong I was. Although I could never consider travelling and taking such risks as described here by the author, I have to say that I found her tale captivating. I bounced from feeling horrified at the risks she took and the conditions endured by her and others, to feeling a sense of peace and calm along with her for having 'discovered' her Africa - something she'd always wanted to experience.
Yes, it's a tale about her experiences, both leading up to the trip(s) (briefly) and whilst in the midst of them. I'm still puzzled though by her husband's laid back attitude to it all, but that doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice read
It brought to life what it might be like to travel beyond Morocco on the road to Timbuktu and gave an insight into all we really need in life.
Published 23 days ago by Apjoz
3.0 out of 5 stars Average
This was an interesting book, and follows the journey of a women on her travels through Africa. The descriptions of the various places visited is excellent but I found the... Read more
Published 29 days ago by MISS SOPHIA ANWAR
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite my cup of tea
The places sounded wonderful, the people were lovely, a dose of fear and some hardship but never felt anything for the storyteller. Read more
Published 1 month ago by laura gallagher
4.0 out of 5 stars loved it.
a great read.Very good descriptive writing with good narrative.Africa off the track.......very good self assessment by the author all the way through,
Published 2 months ago by derek
5.0 out of 5 stars A very interesting travelogue
Having travelled extensively to many areas off the beaten track I loved this book which is well written, very descriptive, I felt I was there, I could feel the atmosphere, smell... Read more
Published 2 months ago by victoria
1.0 out of 5 stars dont bother
I read about 2 chapters of this book and just gave up - was bored 5 more words needed for this review there you go
Published 2 months ago by Liz
3.0 out of 5 stars Ann-Kent
I was expecting more from this book. I couldn't understand how the author could spend so much time away from her husband, and him being so understanding about the length of... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. A. P. Kelly
2.0 out of 5 stars I have no idea what this book was about!
This is the worst book I have read in years. There was no story, in my opinion the author came across as totally patronising and I have no idea at all what message she was trying... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jann McAndrew
4.0 out of 5 stars A nice read
This is a very nice book written by a talented writer but ultimately is a little too personal to allow the majority of readers to relate to the author's perspective. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Joseph Rejek
4.0 out of 5 stars Travels through North Africa
A pleasant, interesting read about a woman's desire to accomplish her goal and reach Timbuktu, using any transport available, actively encouraged by her very supportive French... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
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