Entertainment » Vol. 58

Two memoirs for summer reading

Kimberly Dunbar

When I picked up Geraldine DeRuiter’s new book, All Over the Place: Adventures in Travel, True Love and Petty Theft (PublicAffairs), I expected a book filled with wondrous tales written about the world’s greatest landmarks and places I can only visit vicariously through others. However, that was NOT what it was about. In fact, DeRuiter spends several chapters explaining what a bad traveler she is; early on in her life of travel (after losing her job, she started a blog and accompanied her husband on his many work trips), she didn’t even leave the hotel for fear of getting lost. Instead of being disappointed in a book that did not uncover the world’s greatest places (she leaves that to her nemesis, the great Rick Steves), I enjoyed it for what it was: an ordinary woman (and very talented storyteller) confident enough to share her stories – filled with her own insecurities and shortcomings – about the lessons she learned and the ways she found herself through traveling the globe. All Over the Place has many laugh-out-loud moments, my favorite being the time she peed all over a bathroom floor as revenge for overcharging her group for bad bread. Humor aside, DeRuiter brilliantly weaves in more serious topics, like her battle with a brain tumor, connecting with her father by exploring his home in Russia and facing the painful deaths of her grandparents by celebrating their lives with family in Italy.

If you find yourself wanting more, check out DeRuiter’s blog, The Everywhereist, which has garnered lots of international attention and has made many “lists,” including ones on Time and The Huffington Post. Each post is a carefully crafted piece of storytelling art, much like the chapters of her book.

Ariel Levy’s new memoir, The Rules Do Not Apply (Random House), is not as humorous as DeRuiter’s but is, nonetheless, an important and well-written story about a woman who was raised to believe she was free to do whatever she wanted, but once she was totally free – due to the devastating losses of her son, spouse and house – her world fell apart. “The realization of how little control I had over the life I thought I’d been meticulously crafting for years was destabilizing,” Levy said. As Levy writes in her book, she comes from a generation of women for whom certain rules, like those of her mother and grandmother, did not apply. She went to college, became a journalist who traveled the world (interviewing other independent women), fell in love and got married (to a woman). When she was ready to become a mother, at the unconventional age of 38, she got pregnant. But Levy would soon learn that everyone getting everything they want – no matter how carefully thought out – was another rule that didn’t apply.

Levy, childless and alone, was free and forced to sink or swim in her “sea of grief.” How she was able to pick herself back up and come to terms with her circumstances is a story all women should read.

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