This book tells the story of J. Maarten Troost and his girlfriend Sylvia as they decide to move to an atoll in the equatorial Pacific for two years. On setting out, Maarten packs jeans and sweaters even though the woman whose job Sylvia will be taking assures them cold weather clothes will be unnecessary. And they are. Maarten spends two years in shorts and flip-flops.
Maarten assumes that they’ll be living in a tropical island paradise. However, where they live, the Tarawa atoll in the island nation of Kiribati, is not a paradise. It is hot. It is polluted. The electricity is sporadic. The running water depends on rain and it didn’t rain the entire year Sylvia’s predecessor lived on the island. It is an atoll, not an island, and thus there is very little vegetation. It is overrun with dogs and the only thing to eat is fish. And more fish. Oh, and the people — they poop in the ocean, the ocean that is Maarten’s backyard.
It isn’t the tropical paradise that Maarten imagined it to be, but he and Sylvia come to adjust to life on the atoll, make a place for themselves, and befriend some of the native I-Kiribati, along with the many foreigners living a lazy life in the Pacific. Sylvia loves her job. Maarten learns the ways of island life while “writing a novel.”
I’m not a big fan of nonfiction or travelogues, but this book is extremely funny. Just take the title for instance — doesn’t that pique your interest? Maarten does a fabulous job of telling their story and while opening our eyes to what life on an atoll is like — not paradise at all — he also makes us laugh. Out loud. A lot.
Rated: High. The s-word is used a lot, always to describe feces, which is a big problem on the atoll. The F-word is also used a lot, more than a dozen times. Sexual references are few and extremely mild, mostly just talking about dogs in heat, and very briefly describe sex in the Kiribati culture.