4 out of 4 stars
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Ese dear reader Ese. Welcome. John Quinlan heard these words of welcome on many occasions during his visits to the Papa New Guinean villages by the natives that lived there, and therefore so too do I welcome you to read this review of Tau Bada. This is a tale of failure, humility, perseverance, and vulnerability. It is a story that delves into self-reflection, business principles, philosophy, and many other themes packed into this quite powerful non-fiction memoir.
This book follows the life, trials, and tribulations of the author, John E Quinlan, as he embarks on many different journeys of his life. In particular, he describes the adventures that he had following the failure of his company and his most recent divorce. As John jumps on his prized Harley Davidson, he thinks he is simply embarking on a ride across the country. Little does he know that a stop in a Colorado Ranch for a shot of whiskey would change the rest of his life forever. Meeting Fiona at that place and time in his life tossed John into a whirlwind of change that would literally alter his life as he knew it. Not being able to get this Papa New Guinean beauty out of his mind, he eventually makes his way to the Indian Ocean and begins the next chapter of his life. He starts off by trying his hand at a fishing business, but the personalities of the region and the nature of the business itself don't work out for John. Next, and for most of the book, he creates a coffee and chile company on the remote Managalas Plateau of the island. The book goes through the adventures, unique challenges, innate difficulties, cultural missteps, and sometimes successes that John went through during these years. He outlines for you, dear reader, the challenges in dealing with the locals, the beauty of the plateau, the unique experience of living in a place like this, and the pitfalls of trying to run a business in that exact environment.
No one can deny that John E Quinlan has led an interesting life. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about his exploits and adventures as he tries to implement Western business practices into a place like Papa New Guinea. As an ignorant North American, I am impressed by the progress that John was able to make in this location and even more by the mental fortitude that he was able to show in the face of his many failures and setbacks. Tau Bada was a very interesting book as it mixed a few distinct literary genres together. On one front, and the one that is most prominent, this book is a memoir of John's accomplishments, failures, and adventures. On another front, one can argue that this book is one of philosophy and introspection. Throughout the book, John has a myriad of quotes from authors, musicians, and philosophers that guide him every step of the way. He doesn't hesitate to relate these excerpts to the text at hand and add his own personal thoughts to the mix. On one final front, albeit a minor one, the book is a way to open the reader's eyes to the world around them. Not only am I talking about the beauty, culture, and nuances of Papa New Guinea, but also the various other locations the author uses as a literary backdrop across North America. Very few books that I have read can go from doing belly shots off bartenders to literally being the first white man to enter a remote island village. Tau Bada can transport you all over the world. The thing that I liked the most, however, was something that I have never seen in an e-book. On the e-book version of this story, there are integrated hyperlinks throughout the file. Each hyperlink takes you to a video (hosted on Vimeo) which gives, through yet another media format (video and picture slideshows to music), a glimpse into the life that the author is trying to describe. This is the only book that I have ever seen that is so expertly able to suck the reader into their world with a multimedia perspective.
The only bad things that I had to say about this book slowly dissipated with time. As I started reading the book I was annoyed by the constant forays into philosophy, literary quotes, and self-introspection. As the book went on, however, I came to appreciate these excerpts as an essential look into the author's mind, soul, and physical being at each point in his life. Where I originally found that they were taking away from the story, I eventually was looking forward to reading the next one and inadvertently nodding along with each line. If I had to define one thing that I liked the least about this book, I would have to say that it took a while to get started. In my mind, the action, purpose, and consequently the addiction to the book came after the author made it to Papa New Guinea. Although I understand that it is critical to the understanding of how he got to where he was, the first couple chapters weren't as exciting to me.
For the cultural awareness, the courage to lay out all of the experiences on the table for the reader, and the unique undertakings that John E Quinlan has lived, I give this book 4 out of 4 stars. As I began reading this book, I was sure that I was going to only give it three stars, but each additional chapter solidified another justification in my mind of the higher ranking. John was able to give the reader an experience of a lifetime that is only paralleled by actually being present in these remote locations. He is an extremely talented and loquacious writer and any lover of literature will be titillated by his constant references to the masters of the art. If you aren't a fan of memoirs, I think that you may not enjoy this book as much as I did, but I sincerely believe there is something between the pages for everyone.
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