Book Reviews,  India/Pakistan/Afghanistan,  NON FICTION

The Places in Between by Rory Stewart **, maybe *** (of 4)

The New York Times book reviewer called this a masterpiece of travel writing — he was downright gaga over this book, calling it one of the best travelogues ever written. It’s about a guy who walks across Afghanistan in the middle of winter. And doesn’t die. I found the book a little enigmatic. It’s strongest when Stewart is writing about his personal travails: inhospitable village elders, vicious diarrhea, a stubborn dog. But it’s weakness is a lack of context, story line, indistinguishable characters, and absence of a full explanation for why he decided to walk for 19 months through Pakistan, Nepal, India, Iran, and Afghanistan. Nevertheless, what emerges from his 40 or so short chapters are snapshots of a part of the world and its men (women are almost entirely invisible on his trek) that I know nothing about: rural, tribal Afghanistan. November 2006.