JourneyWoman Book Club: Six Books to Transport you to Faraway Places

Six Books to Transport you to Faraway Places

As we look to the future, reading about places we are curious about can keep us inspired. We’re re-starting the JourneyWoman Book Club and would love your thoughts on which books to start with. You can comment below, or vote on our JourneyWoman Travel Group on Facebook. We are planning our first zoom session for the end of May to give everyone time to order and read their books. We also encourage you to support your local bookstores as much as possible!

Our First Book Club meeting is scheduled for June 10 at 7 pm EDT on Zoom.  You can pre-register here:  https://zoom.us/meeting/register/tJIod-yurD8qG9Hiob-WXxhJPHmvaxcW5uYT

Based on polling on our Facebook Women’s Travel Group, the novel “300 Days of Sun” was selected to start.  

Anne Lamont says: “For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.”

We’ve put a list of six suggested books to get your travel juices flowing. A very special thanks to Wendy B., who researched various sites to identify books that would help us learn and grow.  Please review these and let us know what order you prefer! 

1. ARMENIA

The Sandcastle Girls

by Chris Bohjalian

The Sandcastle Girls is a sweeping historical love story steeped in Chris Bohjalian’s Armenian heritage.

When Elizabeth Endicott arrives in Aleppo, Syria she has a diploma from Mount Holyoke, a crash course in nursing, and only the most basic grasp of the Armenian language. The year is 1915 and she has volunteered on behalf of the Boston-based Friends of Armenia to help deliver food and medical aid to refugees of the Armenian genocide. There Elizabeth becomes friendly with Armen, a young Armenian engineer who has already lost his wife and infant daughter. When Armen leaves Aleppo and travels south into Egypt to join the British army, he begins to write Elizabeth letters and comes to realize that he has fallen in love with the wealthy, young American woman who is so different from the wife he lost.

Fast forward to the present day, where we meet Laura Petrosian, a novelist living in suburban New York. Although her grandparents’ ornate Pelham home was affectionately nicknamed “The Ottoman Annex,” Laura has never really given her Armenian heritage much thought. But when an old friend calls, claiming to have seen a newspaper photo of Laura’s grandmother promoting an exhibit at a Boston museum, Laura embarks on a journey back through her family’s history that reveals love, loss – and a wrenching secret that has been buried for generations.

2. IRELAND

By the Lake That They May Face the Rising Sun (UK title)

By John McGahern, 2002

With this magnificently assured new novel, John McGahern reminds us why he has been called the Irish Chekhov, as he guides readers into a village in rural Ireland and deftly, compassionately traces its natural rhythms and the inner lives of its people.

Here are the Ruttledges, who have forsaken the glitter of London to raise sheep and cattle, gentle Jamesie Murphy, whose appetite for gossip both charms and intimidates his neighbours, handsome John Quinn, perennially on the look-out for a new wife, and the town’s richest man, a gruff, self-made magnate known as “the Shah.”

Following his characters through the course of a year, through lambing and haying seasons, market days and family visits, McGahern lays bare their passions and regrets, their uneasy relationship with the modern world, their ancient intimacy with death. 

3. BULGARIA

The Master

By Dora Ilieva

Three years after her father’s tragic death, Kossara receives a mysterious phone call and a lucrative job offer. Eager to relaunch her academic career, she silences the voice of caution and accepts the proposal which requires that she return to her native Bulgaria. There she discovers that what seemed like an innocent research opportunity is a race against death. Aided by her friends, she struggles to locate a valuable document only to realize that it must remain hidden forever.

 

4. SPAIN

Driving Over Lemons: An Optimist in Andalucía

by Chris Stewart
(Driving Over Lemons Trilogy #1)

No sooner had Chris Stewart set eyes on El Valero than he handed over a check. Now all he had to do was explain to Ana, his wife, that they were the proud owners of an isolated sheep farm in the Alpujarra Mountains in Southern Spain. That was the easy part.

Lush with olive, lemon, and almond groves, the farm lacks a few essentials—running water, electricity, an access road. And then there’s the problem of rapacious Pedro Romero, the previous owner who refuses to leave. A perpetual optimist, whose skill as a sheepshearer provides an ideal entrée into his new community, Stewart also possesses an unflappable spirit that, we soon learn, nothing can diminish. Wholly enchanted by the rugged terrain of the hillside and the people they meet along the way—among them, farmers, including the ever-resourceful Domingo, other expatriates and artists—Chris and Ana Stewart build an enviable life, complete with a child and dogs, in a country far from home. 

5. CHINA

River Town

By Peter Hessler
A New York Times Notable Book, Winner of the Kiriyama Book Prize

In the heart of China’s Sichuan province, amid the terraced hills of the Yangtze River valley, lies the remote town of Fuling. Like many other small cities in this ever-evolving country, Fuling is heading down a new path of change and growth, which came into remarkably sharp focus when Peter Hessler arrived as a Peace Corps volunteer, marking the first time in more than half a century that the city had an American resident. Hessler taught English and American literature at the local college, but it was his students who taught him about the complex processes of understanding that take place when one is immersed in a radically different society.

Poignant, thoughtful, funny, and enormously compelling, River Town is an unforgettable portrait of a city that is seeking to understand both what it was and what it someday will be. 

6. PORTUGAL

300 Days of Sun

By Deborah Lawrenson

Combining the atmosphere of Jess Walters Beautiful Ruins with the intriguing historical backstory of Christina Baker Klines’ The Orphan Train, Deborah Lawrenson’s mesmerizing novel transports readers to a sunny Portuguese town with a shadowy past where two women, decades apart, are drawn into a dark game of truth and lies that still haunts the shifting sea marshes.

Travelling to Faro, Portugal, journalist Joanna Millard hopes to escape an unsatisfying relationship and a stalled career. Faro is an enchanting town, and the seaside views are enhanced by the company of Nathan Emberlin, a charismatic younger man. But behind the crumbling facades of Moorish buildings, Joanna soon realizes, Faro has a seedy underbelly, its economy compromised by corruption and wartime spoils. And Nathan has an ulterior motive for seeking her company: he is determined to discover the truth involving a child’s kidnapping that may have taken place on this dramatic coastline over two decades ago.

Joanna’s subsequent search leads her to Ian Rylands, an English ex-pat who cryptically insists she will find answers in The Alliance, a novel written by American Esta Hartford. The book recounts an American couple s experience in Portugal during World War II, and their entanglements both personal and professional with their German enemies. Only Rylands insists the book isn’t fiction, and as Joanna reads deeper into The Alliance, she begins to suspect that Esta Hartford s story and Nathan Emberlins may indeed converge in Faro where the past not only casts a long shadow but still exerts a very present danger.

Disclaimer: We’re so happy that you’re checking out this page right now! Should you decide to purchase any of these books through Indigo or Bookstore.org (in support of community bookstores), JourneyWoman may receive a small commission. This is helpful to us to keep doing what we love and to maintain our beautiful website.  If you choose to purchase something using the links, it is greatly appreciated but not expected.  Your trust is paramount to us and we only recommend things that are suggested by our community, or through our own experience, that we believe will be helpful and practical for you. Thank you! 

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4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    My vote: Ireland, armenia, spain, Portugal, Bulgaria, china – how do you join the book club?

    Reply
    • JourneyWoman

      Hi Mary, we are doing a little voting on our Facebook Travel Group too – if you’re on our newsletter email list you’ll get an update when we start the zoom calls (end of May). Thank you!

      Reply
  2. Avatar

    I’m not sure how to vote.? My top three choices – Ireland, Portugal, Bulgaria.

    Reply
  3. Avatar

    Other than 300 Days of Sun have the dates been selected for the other books?

    Reply

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