Rated Reads

A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar

by Suzanne Joinson

Rated: Moderate

Two things drew me to this book. First, the cover: I love it. I don’t know why; something about it just calls to me. And second, the first sentence made me hopeful for something … exciting.

And the premise is intriguing: it’s 1923, and Evangeline English and her sister, Lizzie, are traveling the world with an evangelical missionary. Specifically, they are headed to Eastern Turkestan/Upper China. Lizzie and the missionary, Millicent, are there to convert people; Evangeline is there to write a book about cycling in this distant place. From the start, however, nothing goes right. They try to help a girl give birth, but the mother ends up dying, and the women are placed under house arrest and given charge of the baby. And that’s only the beginning. There’s a lot of resistance to their missionary message, and Millicent is overbearing; she and Evangeline don’t get along.

There’s a parallel story, as well: it’s modern-day London, and Frieda, the daughter of non-traditional parents and a world traveler, is in a dead-end relationship with a married man. She’s back in town after a trip to Cairo, when two unusual things happen: one, she gets a letter telling her that she is the next-of-kin for an Irene Guy, whom she’s never even heard of; and a Yemeni man, Tayeb, parks himself outside her door. Both of these things will change her life.

I spent a good portion of the book trying to figure out how these two stories were connected. I should have realized much sooner than I did; if you’re paying attention, it’s pretty obvious. Even so, each of the stories might have made a decent book on their own, but┬átogether it kind of seems forced. I wanted more from each of the stories, more than I got anyway, and I feel like in combining them Joinson somehow cheated me of the full story. That, and I think the most interesting character was the elusive Ilene Guy; her story seemed the most intriguing.

That said, it wasn’t a bad book. There’s enough in it to keep my attention throughout it all, and while I didn’t love it in the end, at least I wasn’t bored by it. And that’s something.

Rated: Moderate for several instances of mild swearing, a lesbian sex scene, and allusion to heterosexual sex.

— Reviewed by Melissa Fox

Melissa Madsen Fox's blogging career began in 2004 when she started Book Nut. Reading, reviewing and book blogging have taken over what's left of her life after being a stay-at-home mom to four rambunctious daughters and wife to a slightly- absent-minded professor of political science.

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  • A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar
  • by Suzanne Joinson
  • Rated: Moderate
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Reviewer: