From early on, Lynn Freed had imagined for herself an ideal life: a stranger in a strange place – someone just arrived, just about to leave, and always with somewhere to go home to. As a teenager on an exchange program from South Africa to the U.S., she made up fantastic reasons to escape high school in the suburbs and spend her time in New York City. But then back in New York a few years later – married now, and a graduate student – she found herself at home neither in the place nor in the marriage.
What she did find, in the end, was a true marriage between writing and travel, travel and identity, identity and freedom. Traversing decades and continents, and back again, The Romance of Elsewhere captures the essential dilemma of the expat: where is home? Taking on subjects as disparate as Disneyland, lovers, eco-tourism, shopping, serious illness, and the anomaly of writers who blossom into full power only in old age, these essays deliver “tart, witty, writing with a bite to it.”
“No one writes funnier, more acutely observant, frank, and intelligent personal essays than Lynn Freed. If her skeptical, sardonic voice amuses us with every line, it is largely because she is a grown-up in a culture of adolescence, who has done her psychological homework and taken the full measure of her experience, mistakes included. In this, her best nonfiction collection, you will come to know her narrator as one of the most nuanced and sophisticated characters in contemporary literature, and in the process make a new friend.”
—Phillip Lopate, author of A Mother’s Tale
“Novelist Freed (The Servants’ Quarters) . . . wrestles with ‘the horror of being stuck where one lives’ and, in opposition to that horror, her attachment to the comfort, intimacy and pride of home in this collection of personal essays that spans both decades and continents. The essays, all previously published, recount her childhood and adolescence in her native South Africa and her experiences as an exchange student and young bride in New York City, a visiting professor in Texas, and a long-time resident of Northern California, an inveterate traveler all the while. Wise, evocative and darkly humorous, Freed covers Disneyland, ecotourism, lovers, servants, her wariness of milestone-birthday celebrations and the accompanying ‘hysteria for public confession,’ writers who are able to blossom in old age, and other topics. Particularly memorable are her essays about South Africa, as well as those about her upper-middle-class, mildly eccentric family’s place in it. This collection evokes different moods, different eras, and different places with an astute, frank, and pitch-perfect narrator.”
Publisher: Counterpoint (October 10, 2017)
Hardcover: 224 pages