Nothing to Declare: Memories of a Woman Traveling Alone (Travel Library, Penguin)

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9780140095876: Nothing to Declare: Memories of a Woman Traveling Alone (Travel Library, Penguin)

Traveling from the highland desert of northern Mexico to the steaming jungles of Honduras, from the seashore of the Caribbean to the exquisite highlands of Guatemala, Mary Morris, a celebrated writer of both fiction and nonfiction, confronts the realities of place, poverty, machismo, and selfhood. As she experiences the rawness and precariousness of life in another culture, Morris begins to hear echoes of her own life and her own sense of deprivation. And she begins, too, to overcome the struggles of the past that have held her back personally; as in the very best travel writing, Morris effectively explores her own soul while exploring new terrain and new experience. By crossing such boundaries throughout the pages of Nothing to Declare, she sets new frontiers for herself as a woman—and as a writer.

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Review:

Great travel writing has always been about the person making the trip as well as the things he or she encounters, and Mary Morris's category-defying 1988 memoir was an instant classic as much for its candid revelation of the author's turbulent emotions as for its sensitive, unglamorous portrait of a Latin America most tourists never see. Living in a poor neighborhood of the small Mexican town San Miguel de Allende, Morris befriends a neighbor, Lupe, who is struggling to support her many children (fathered by three different men) and to cope with her current, openly unfaithful partner. Scenes of life in San Miguel alternate with Morris's voyages around Central America, from the historic ruins of Teotihuacán to the contemporary turmoil of Nicaragua under the Sandinistas. Memories of her past crowd in: her parents' tense marriage, which sparked the restlessness that keeps their daughter on the road; her difficult relationships with often cruel men; the desolation of the years prior to her departure for San Miguel. Neither her affection for Lupe nor her love affair with a Mexico City man can prevent Morris's eventual return to the U.S., but her eloquent, elegant prose makes it clear that the grim, grand landscape and its tenacious inhabitants have left an indelible imprint on her soul. --Wendy Smith

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Praise for Nothing to Declare:

"She is a fascinating guide, with an eye for the brutal, the garish, the silly, and the bizarre....The energy of her motion carries the reader with her." --Time

"The union of a travel book and journey into the self. The vibrancy of that union is on every page...a true story and an artfully told one." --The New York Times Book Review

"Morris is one gutsy woman and one fantastic writer...A riveting account of living in Mexico and traveling through Latin America." --Cosmopolitan

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