The Same River Twice: A Memoir of Dirtbag Backpackers, Bomb Shelters, and Bad Travel

Skyhorse Publishing. Nov. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9781510760059. $24.99. TRAV
As a 17-year-old high school graduate, Mandel (blogger, Nerd’s Eye View) faced an uncertain future. Neither of her divorced parents offered her a home, so she was sent off to Israel to spend a year as an agricultural worker. This is not your usual travel memoir, but a narrative of a teen on a lonely and sometimes brutal journey to discover herself. It’s 1980, and she fears for her physical safety and mental health, and that she has nowhere to return to once her year is up. She meets others in her travels, young adults who are unable to find work in their home counties. Good at languages and interested in art, she finds that lack of funds limits any enjoyment of the places she visits. She travels through Europe, Egypt, and India with an abusive boyfriend, staying with him because she has no other options. Her voice is compelling, authentic, and heartbreaking at times. Angry and depressed, she eventually returns to California, where her mother has remarried and her father is going to prison.
VERDICT Young adults and college students who are considering a gap year will be interested in this cautionary coming-of-age story.

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