- Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven by Susan Jane Gilman; read by the author
- Abridged Audiobook (7 CDs, approximately 8 hours)
- Publisher: Hachette Audio Group (3/24/09)
- ISBN: 9781600244483
Back-of-the-box blurb: In 1986, Susie and her friend Claire, fresh-faced graduates from Brown University, were inspired by a placemat entitled “Pancakes of Many Nations” to depart on an epic trip around the world, starting with Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China, then only recently opened to the rest of the world. As the two ventured into what turned out to be a strange and alien land, they encountered places far different from anything they had ever experienced, from the horrors of an open-ditch toilet in the back of a weird hybrid tenement hotel, to a magical boat ride through a fantastic landscape of wind-carved mountains. At every turn, they stumbled upon unforgettable people, including an earnest local who called himself Johnny and loved everything American from hamburgers to Stevie Wonder, a heroic German exchange student named Eckehardt Grimm, and a young waitress named Lisa in an unlikely restaurant in the middle of rural China that specialized in food for weary travelers, such as pancakes and pizza, “just like their mama make.”
Armed only with Nietzsche’s greatest works and a copy of Linda Goodman’s Love Signs, Susie and Claire were utterly unprepared for their expedition, and their experience alternated between culture shock and exotic adventure, until a near-tragedy turned the trip into a true-life international thriller.
She is Too Fond of Books‘ thoughts: I’m going to turn this review upside down and start with the bottom line – I loved this audiobook! You may know that I reserve my audiobook listening for the treadmill; a good audiobook is my incentive to stick to my exercise regime, my reward for an hour or so each day. I walked more often, and for longer periods, when I listened to Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven.
The audio combines personal memoir (one of my favorite genres) with the perfect balance of light and darker moments while telling a tale that was certainly life-changing. Susan Jane Gilman, the author, reads the audio, and is able to inject more of herself in the reading – self-deprecating humor, the awe at some of the sights she and Claire saw, and the raw emotions of the climax of their experience. It sounds cliched, but, she really made the characters come alive!
Gilman has the habit of repeating herself within a scene; she says the same thing in a variety of ways; the author will describe a setting or action, then go on to re-tell it with a different vocabulary; some readers/listeners may feel she used a thesauraus, dictionary, or synonym finder to increase the word count. I think she was simply emphasizing parts that really impacted her, and wanted to make sure that the reader/listener “got it”; the audiobook format lent itself to this almost conversational reiteration; I wasn’t bothered by it; I tend to go on and on (and on and on); my internal editor is often on vacation. I don’t know if she used semi-colons in the prose … that’s how I imagined it as I listened.
I was expecting a fun-filled travelogue of their romp around the world, complete with wild parties and adventures of recent graduates bursting with curiosity and holding little responsibility. The adventures are there; Susie also shows a maturity and resourcefulness I wasn’t expecting. I listened to the abridged audio, and I’m curious to pick up the book, to fill in the scenes that were deleted.
About the author: Susan Jane Gilman bills herself as a “writer, journalist, inadvertent humorist.” She has published two other non-fiction books, Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress, and Kiss My Tiara. More information, including a reader’s guide to Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven can be found on the author’s website. Did I mention that she’s afraid of clowns and puppets?
FTC disclosure: review copy provided by the publisher.