Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven: A MemoirUndress Me in the Temple of Heaven: A Memoir by Susan Jane Gilman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was surprised how much I liked this book. The cover and title suggest something that’s not really up my alley, but this really is a case where you can’t judge a book by its cover. The protagonist (the author, as this is autobiographical) is a young woman just our of an ivy league college. She and a casual friend decide to backpack around the world before settling down. Their first stop is China shortly after it was opened to Westerners. Before long the author’s companion begins acting strangely, disappearing to do secret work and claiming to be followed by enemy agents.

Having spent some time in Bolivia and Japan when I was the age the author was in the story, I can attest to the fact that a complete change in language, food, sanitary facilities, and company can do strange things to a person’s head. Once you’ve operated that far outside your comfort zone, you will never see your comfort zone quite the same way ever again. The author captures this very unique kind of stress brilliantly. The book is funny, captivating, and quietly insightful.

View all my reviews