Title: Travels in a Thin Country
Author: Sara Wheeler
Release Date: January 1, 1996
Publisher: Modern Library
Genre: Non-Fiction, Travel
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Travels in a Thin Country is Sara Wheeler’s chronicle of her trip through Chile, a country that is 2,600 miles long, but only 110 miles wide at its biggest. At the beginning of the book, Wheeler’s goal is to start in the north and make her way south, learning about the culture and history of the country along the way.
I love to travel, but I’ve never actually been to South America. We’ve discussed taking a trip to Chile on multiple occasions and hope to get there soon, but I recently realized I know almost nothing about the country. Therefore, I was delighted when I found Travels in a Thin Country. Everything about the book, including that gorgeous cover, made me want to dive into it immediately.
I have to say, Travels in a Thin Country is one of the strangest travel memoirs I’ve ever read. Wheeler does a wonderful job relating the history of the country to the reader. For those of us whose only knowledge of Chile is Salvador Allende and Pinochet, Wheeler provides great information in order to put her experiences and encounters into context. As a result, I learned a lot about this vibrant country from Wheeler’s memoir.
I also loved how much interaction Wheeler has with the locals. She is constantly taking chances and meeting people, not afraid to take risks in order to have great experiences. She really gets to know the people of Chile, and that comes through in the book. Often in books such as this, the author gets so lost in the descriptions and history that they neglect to actually sit down and talk to the locals. Wheeler doesn’t overlook this important element, and that makes this book that much better.
So why is it strange, then? Because of how little description there is. This is a book about encounters and experiences; Wheeler doesn’t deliver vivid imagery. She visits some of the most incredible places on the planet, including Antarctica, and she doesn’t spare a lot of words to describe what she’s seeing. The memoir definitely suffers for it, as I would have loved more description so I could have tried to picture what she was experiencing and seeing in my head. However, that doesn’t prevent me from recommending this memoir. It was well written and interesting; I found myself captivated by Wheeler’s experiences and by her thoughts on what she saw. I did miss vivid descriptions, but fans of travel memoirs should still definitely consider picking this book up.