University of Nebraska Press, October 1, 2020
“Once I stopped projecting what I wished I was onto myself and faced and accepted the current version of myself, I learned how to be happy in my own company.” from Mating Season
Suzanne Roberts’ collection of travel essays tells the tales of wanderlust that can, well, be less than appealing. From getting caught naked in a lightning storm to taking “real” yoga in India to realizing she needs a divorce while watching a fellow skier almost die in an avalanche, these stories are revealing and personal. Roberts doesn’t hold back when she discusses the men she’s had in her life and on her excursions, which is actually refreshing in the way a successful woman CEO of a global and honorable company is refreshing: it isn’t quite expected, but we know that’s the problem in and of itself. Her lovers are many, but her track record with healthy relationships isn’t. This collection is a journal of self-discovery and forgiveness. It’s also a reckoning of past indiscretions, a lesson in cultural mess-ups, a gain in confidence and ownership of her own body, and a coming-to-terms with the life she’s chosen to lead.
Roberts is quick and funny and her stories are captivating. The stories involving her mother were some of my favorites. Her writing is thoughtful and honest. I found myself irked and uncomfortable by some of her choices and remembered that it’s because this is not a life I would want. This is her life. There were also times when her experiences seemed like punishment rather than adventure, which helped vary the narratives. She sees her privilege in the faces of begging children and in the generosity of a people with much less, but that is part of what opens her eyes to the importance of travel. There were moments when I wanted to rearrange the stories because the flow didn’t quite work for me. She has organized them into categories, but the years from one essay to the next can jump two, five, or even ten years back or forward. I had to remind myself who her husband is because of the leaps in time. It isn’t a huge drawback, just a slight annoyance.
This would be a good pick for anyone that loves travel, misses traveling in these days of quarantine, or would like something different. This is a collection of love stories to old friends, lovers, her mother, new friends from her travels, discovered lands and cultures, and to herself.