The Half Known Life: In Search of Paradise

Riverhead. Jan. 2023. 240p. adapted by . ISBN 9780593420256. $26. SPIRITUALITY
Essayist and novelist Iyer (The Man Within My Head) presents this thoughtful exploration of the concepts of paradise, and whether anything resembling it can be found in the earthly realm. His musings wander from his childhood home in Santa Barbara and his experiences in a British boarding school to travels in adulthood to such disparate destinations as Iran, North Korea, Jerusalem, and Northern Ireland. Iyer’s careful commentary is centered on the famous quote by Herman Melville regarding “the horrors of the half-known life.” Yet Iyer seems to readily acknowledge that even visiting a myriad of locations and exploring the ideologies that surround them cannot grant any one person more than a cursory understanding of the impacts of religion and culture on a person’s worldview.
VERDICT While the premise and the prose seem a bit meandering at times, Iyer’s latest book is a joyful travelogue that many readers will likely enjoy.
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