Review: Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven
As Susie Gilman graduated from Brown, she and an acquaintance, Claire Van Houten decided to backpack around the world for a year. Neither one of them had really traveled much before, but with their trusty Lonely Planet guide in hand, they decided to take the plunge. They wanted to start the trip in China. This was in 1986, when China was just allowing visitors, so they had to go by way of Hong Kong. When they arrived in Hong Kong, Susie was stricken with homesickness and self-doubt and wanted to go home. Claire gave Susie a pep talk and tells her that she believes in her.
When Susie and Claire got to the guesthouse recommended by the guide book they find it below our standards but decided that this is the way they want to travel, so they toughed it out. They made their way into China and meet some interesting characters – an American woman traveling with her two small children, a tattooed New Zealander, a Chinese man who wants to deport to America – and see each other through sickness.
Along the way, Claire started to act a little strange. She said she needed to go off on her own because she was writing a “world curriculum.” She says the FBI, CIA and Mossad were after her. At first, Susie wrote her odd behavior off on jealousy and homesickness. When Claire seemed to have a break-down, several of the people they’ve met along the way come to their rescue.
Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven is Susan Jane Gilman’s memoir of this remarkable trip. I really enjoyed reading about her adventures in China. I would never have the gumption to backpack around the world – give me the Holiday Inn – and thought it was wonderful to read about people who did. This book showed that even though our countries and cultures are different, people are basically the same around the world.
Susan Jane Gilman will be on Blog Talk Radio on March 23 at 2PM Eastern Time. You can call in with questions or ask them in the chat room.
Review copy provided by Hachette Books.