"Home By Another Way"

Home By Another Way by Robert Benson

This is the story of how Benson and his wife fell in love with a small Caribbean island and adopted it as their second home. I am a huge fan of travel books, so I couldn't really go wrong with this one. It met all my requirements for a good travel book: it let's you stay in one place long enough to become familiar with it, it was written by someone who wasn't arrogant enough to think this foreign place should adapt itself to them, and the descriptions were vivid enough that I can close my eyes and be there. I have developed these requirements over time with the reading of some really bad travel books.

The Caribbean setting was a huge plus for me because I've been there and remember the sounds and smells of the islands. The Island under discussion is St. Cecelia, which the author admits is not it's real name, but one made up to keep his favorite island from becoming too popular. From what he says though, I suspect I know the real name of that island because it all sounds so familiar and some of the landscape is just too similar to be coincidence. It made me feel a little homesick. Not that I spent that much time there, but the place get's under your skin quickly. I probably will never set foot on that particular piece of the earth again, but I will always be wishing I could.

 I like Benson's writing. He has a simple, straightforward style that doesn't ask much of the reader, which can be a very nice change. All you have to do is show up and gratefully go along for the ride. I haven't read his other books, but this one is restful, gentle, calm. He has a quiet dry humour that I love and an understated way of saying things that is most appealing. I read the book in just a couple of evenings and was a little sorry to see it end. I wasn't ready to come home yet.  

In addition to writing about the island , the authour tells us about himself and his wife, their relationship and how they spend their time. It's about the lives they live when they're on the island though; we only get glimpses of his "real" life in the U.S. I was glad of that because I wanted more of the island than anything else. My wishing there was less about them and more about St. Cecilia does not indicate any flaw in the book. The book is exactly what it was meant to be, the story of their lives on the island. I'm just a little too greedy for the Caribbean.

I think I'll look for a copy of this book for myself; the one I read was borrowed. I'd like to read it again, and maybe again. It may not be great literature - thank goodness there are books that aren't - but it is a quiet, enjoyable book that nicely fed my travel addiction. I recommend it to anyone looking for some light escapism.


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