4 out of 4 stars
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Walking to Woot: A Photographic Narrative Discovering New Dimensions for Parent-Teen Bonding by Jackie Chase is a travel memoir of the best sort. Ms. Chase and her young teenage daughter Katherine journey into the jungles of Indonesia’s New Guinea island. Together they face down biting ants, brown drinking water, terrifying snakes, and floods of mosquitoes. Their explorations lead them to several native villages where they witness and even take part in various aspects of tribal life. Meanwhile, they are getting to know themselves and each other much more intimately.
This book is so appealing in part because it includes the reader. Not only are the experiences vividly described, but the author is open about her thoughts and feelings throughout. She asks meaningful questions, ostensibly to herself or Katherine, but in reality, the author is also asking the reader. For example, in chapter 3, the author asks, “Had a few Dani, half-naked and with pork bones pierced through their nostrils, walked into a neighborhood barbecue in our country, would we receive them with open arms?” The author may only be recounting thoughts and feelings of the moment, but it is a question anyone can think about. If someone very different from you walked into your community, how would that person be received? There is a lot of food for thought about how we view other cultures and how another culture might perceive ours.
Additionally, Walking to Woot is gripping. I read it in one day! The characters are believable, neither made into heroes nor cast as villains. There is a lot of adventure, both in the sense of the journey and in the small things that make up day-to-day living in the jungle. Ms. Chase can captivate the reader when she describes a joining in a community pig feast as well when she talks about procuring potable water.
Another major concern of the book is the aftermath. There is heavy emphasis on the changes in Katherine and her mother’s relationship. When the journey is coming to an end, the author includes several chapters that reflect on how they anticipate the trip will change their lives and how it actually did. Especially for Katherine (as a teenager), the changes will be life-altering. The author includes an interview with her daughter, apparently performed years later, that allows Katherine to reflect on her experiences before, during, and after the trip. There was also discussion about the mother-daughter relationship during those three time periods in order to add Katherine’s thoughts and feelings to the author’s own. This honest reflection helps add context and relevance to the experience as a whole, allowing the reader to understand the benefits and costs of exotic travel.
I am happy to be able to rate Walking to Woot by Jackie Chase 4 out of 4 stars. For me, it brought back some of my best memories of my own adventures. It inspires people to see every day as an adventure of its own and every person as a unique treasure, to be valued for their own sake. Even a non-traveler will enjoy an exciting story of travel, family, and creepy crawlies.
Walking to Woot A Photographic Narrative Discovering New Dimensions for Parent-Teen Bonding
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