Review ♦ Undress Me In The Temple Of Heaven

Undress Me In The Temple Of HeavenIn 1986, Susie and her friend Claire, fresh-faced graduates from Brown University, were inspired by a placemat entitled "Pancakes of Many Nations" to depart on an epic trip around the world, starting with Hong Kong and the People's Republic of China, then only recently opened to the rest of the world. As the two ventured into what turned out to be a strange and alien land, they encountered places far different from anything they had ever experienced, from the horrors of an open-ditch toilet in the back of a weird hybrid tenement hotel, to a magical boat ride through a fantastic landscape of wind-carved mountains. At every turn, they stumbled upon unforgettable people, including an earnest local who called himself George and loved everything American from hamburgers to Stevie Wonder, a heroic German exchange student named Eckehardt Grimm, and a young waitress named Lisa in an unlikely restaurant in the middle of rural China that specialized in food for weary travelers, such as pancakes and pizza, "just like their mama make."
Armed only with Nietzsche's greatest works and a copy of Linda Goodman's Love Signs, Susie and Claire were utterly unprepared for their expedition, and their experience alternated between culture shock and exotic adventure, until a near-tragedy turned the trip into a true-life international thriller. Recounted in Susan Jane Gilman's inspired and unmistakable voice, this adventure is an unforgettable voyage into a peculiarly modern heart of darkness.


Title: Undress Me In The Temple Of Heaven Type: Audio Book (CD) 8 Hours (320 Pages)
Author: Susan Jane Gilman Publication Date: March 2009
Publisher: Hachette Audio ISBN: 978-1-60024-448-3
Genre: Memoir / Travel Purchase: Amazon

My Thoughts  
So this will be the very first time that I talk about an audio book here! It’s not that I don’t enjoy listening to them, it’s more to do with the fact that (a) comfy headphones are hard to find, (b) audio books are pretty expensive, (c) my library doesn’t have the greatest selection, and (d) my house is way too noisy with kids, animals, music, and videogames! Sometimes I worry that if I happen to get too engrossed in an audio book I will be unable to hear any possible destruction/accidents/brouhahas happening around me. Anywho, over the past few weeks I took advantage of the time I spend commuting to school and back everyday and listened to Susan Jane Gilman’s fascinating travel memoir Undress Me In The Temple of Heaven. I figured listening to this in my car while traveling would allay any possible worries I had of my house falling down around me, however I became so engrossed in the story that I’m sure a parade of elephants could have been dancing down the highway beside me and I would not have noticed!

I’m not going to rehash the synopsis here, I think the publishers description included above is perfect. Instead I want to focus on the things that really impressed me.

The most important thing about audio books for me is the actual reader/narrator. From the first 5 minutes of listening I was immediately blown away by Susan Jane Gilman’s voice, perhaps because of the autobiographical nature of the story, or perhaps because she is just a born story-teller I felt like the author was speaking directly to me. This is exactly what I want with this type of audio, the personal feel, the sense that someone is telling you a story about what they’ve experienced in their life. There were moments when I could hear the laughter, the awe, and the sadness underneath the words. It truly felt as though the author were reliving certain things while discussing them.

The ability to convey emotions through the retelling added to next aspect of what I loved in this audio book – the amazing subject of the authors travels, as well as the historical and cultural reflections. The author and her friend are traveling through China in the 1980’s and throughout their experiences the author manages to slip in lots of information about how that China differed from present-day China and it also helps the reader/listener to understand just how different the culture is there from North America. As young backpackers with no real experience traveling outside their own society, the culture shock that they experience is clear, honest, and at times scary to contemplate. I really was fascinated by the descriptions of where these two young women were, the people they met, and the situations they found themselves in.

*** May contain spoilers if you don’t want to know the details of the disaster of the travels***

The two women are school friends who’ve decided to travel together, and like many friends who think they know one another well, there are always things you don’t really know. During the trip, Susan Jane Gilman begins to notice her friend Claire behaving oddly, often paranoid and anxious. At first she believes it merely to be caused from stress, tiredness, culture shock, all those little things about travel that can upset a person’s personality. However it keeps getting worse, until the author realizes that Claire is most likely suffering some sort of mental/psychological breakdown. It was terrifying to hear about what was happening, it’s hard enough to help a person through something like this on your own turf, but I couldn’t imagine doing it while in a foreign country with no network of family, friends or even healthcare officials. Not to mention the language barrier.

*** End of possible spoilers***

To sum it up, for approximately 8 hours of commuting time, I was completely engaged in Undress Me In The Temple Of Heaven. I would listen to the story on my way to school, and then sit in classes anticipating the moment when I could jump back in my car, hit the highway, and tune in again to Susan Jane Gilman’s fascinating and exciting adventure in world travel and friendship. The only issue I had with this audio book was the fact that it is an unabridged version of the actual book, but I enjoyed it so much that I am planning on picking up an unabridged copy to read in the future.


Susan Jane Gilman

About The Author

Susan Jane Gilman is the author of the bestsellers Hypocrite In A Pouffy White Dress, and Kiss My Tiara. She has written for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Ms., and Real Simple, among other publications, and received several literary and journalism awards. She currently lives in Geneva, Switzerland, with her husband.


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© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.

19 comments:

SmallWorld at Home said...

Great review. I'm going to have to add this to my TBR list!

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

I think you hit it right on - part of what makes this an awesome audio book is the fact that Gilman reads it herself. I loved hearing her sense or humor and excitement under the words as she told her story.

bermudaonion said...

I read the book and thought it was fantastic, so I'm not surprised to see the audio's good too! I've found a great way to get your family to talk to you is to start listening to an audio book. Thanks for the link love!

softdrink said...

You're making me rethink me giving up on audio books AND my no re-reading habit.

Hmmm, I wonder if she narrates any of her other books...must go see.

Zibilee said...

I don't do audio books for a lot of the reasons that you mention, and also because I always find my attention drifting whenever I am in the middle of the story. That being said, I am so fascinated about this book. It sounds like a wonderful read, and I really find the mental illness aspect of the book to be interesting. I have read such good reviews of this book, and your thumbs up pushes me over the edge! I am adding this one to my wish list right now!! Great review, Joanne. I am so glad you loved the book!

Audrey; (AyC) said...

Not a great fan of audiobooks, I find i can't keep a storyline together if i'm listening to it. maybe it's just me. great review though!
And I've got an award for you on my blog :)

Care said...

I already want to read this, now I have to decide if listening is the way I should go.

Lenore said...

I suck at listening to audio books - I've tried sooo many times. But the book sounds like it would be just my thing!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I loved this boks and just with hearing her voice in the novel, which is so strong, I can only imagine that the audio is delightful. i have heard that she is great at storytelling so like Jill I either need to re-think "re-reading" this or see if her other books are in audio as well.

naida said...

This does sound really good. I've never listened to a book on audio before.
http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

By Book or By Crook said...

this is actually the very next book to be read in my pile from the library. However, now I'm wondering if I should return it and seek out the audio instead!

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

Great review! I received it recently (on paper though) and I'm really looking forward to reading it! I love books on traveling and exploring other places.

Naresh Ramchandani said...

The snippet sounds great. Has the author done a non-fiction work too?

Ceri said...

As someone who has so many desires to go travelling, I love travel memoirs/literature. Anything that someone praises, I'll immediately want to read. Thanks for this review, Jo. :D I'm not a big fan of audiobooks though - My attention span is bad enough when it comes to book books.

Care said...

Hey YOU! How's summer your way? :)

Birdy said...

Wonderful blog you have here! And I love your review format, esp the About the Author bit in the end. That short intro is just right, to give a glimpse of the author. Adding you to my blogroll!

Anonymous said...

Wow this is a great resource.. I’m enjoying it.. good article

Ondrej from James Patterson Book List said...

Sounds like a great book, I always enjoy reading about "magical" lands and landscapes, it's a good therapy after everyday hassle.

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