Overview filched from B&N:
Born on Bland Street in a working-class neighborhood of Sydney, Australia, Geraldine Brooks longs to discover the vivid places where history happens and culture comes from. She enlists pen pals who offer her a window on the hazards of adolescence in the Middle East, Europe, and America. With the aid of their letters, Brooks turns her bedroom into the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, the barricades of Parisian student protests, the swampy fields of an embattled kibbutz. Twenty years later – and worlds away from her sheltered girlhood – Brooks is an award-winning foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, reporting on wars and famines in the Middle East, Bosnia, and Africa. But she never forgets her earlier foreign correspondence. Traveling full circle to attend her dying father, Brooks stumbles on the old letters in her parents’ basement. She embarks on a human treasure hunt to find her pen friends, and to retrieve her own lost memories of the shy Sydney girl who wrote to them. One by one, she finds men and women whose lives have been shaped by war and hatred, by fame and notoriety, and by the ravages of a mysterious and tragic mental illness. It is only from the distance of foreign lands and against the background of alien lives that Brooks finally sees her homeplace clearly. This intimate, moving, and often humorous memoir of growing up Down Under speaks to the unquiet heart of every girl who has ever yearned to become a woman of the world.
Did you know that Geraldine Brooks was Australian? Me, either! Also…did you know she was married to Tony Horwitz? Again…me, either!
And obviously, there is way more to the book than that (in fact, Tony only appears briefly at the end…I only mention it because having read both authors I just didn’t put them together). This is both a memoir of an Australian childhood with a mysterious father, and an investigation of “whatever happened to those childhood pen pals?”
I remain a fan.