A cultural castaway writes winningly of life on a remote island in the
Pacific that may be one of global warming’s first casualties.
Just one month after his twenty-first birthday, Peter Rudiak-Gould
moved to Ujae, a remote atoll in the Marshall Islands located 70 miles
from the nearest telephone, car, store, or tourist, and 2000 miles from
the closest continent. He spent the next year there, living among its
450 inhabitants and teaching English to its schoolchildren. At first
blush, Surviving Paradise is a thoughtful and laugh-out-loud hilarious
documentation of Rudiak-Gould’s efforts to cope with daily life on Ujae
as his idealistic expectations of a tropical paradise confront harsh
reality. But Rudiak-Gould goes beyond the personal, interweaving his
own story with fascinating political, linguistic and ecological
digressions about the Marshall Islands. Most poignant are his
observations of the noticeable effect of global warming on these tiny,
low-lying islands and the threat rising water levels pose to their
already precarious existence.
Surviving Paradise is a disarmingly lighthearted narrative with a
substantive emotional undercurrent.
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Awards and praise
Book of the Month, National Geographic Traveler, November 2009
Saroyan International Prize for Writing, 2010
"An extraordinarily engaging diary-portrait of a 21st-century castaway
uncovering the everyday riches, enduring frustrations, and confounding
contradictions of life in a South Pacific paradise."
-National Geographic Traveler (Full review here)
"Alternatively hilarious, emotional and thought provoking....an
eye-opening look into a beautiful yet harsh paradise far from the
reaches of tourism."
-Publishers Weekly (Full review here)
"This entertaining memoir reads like a novel....The perfect book for
readers of fish-out-of-water travel memoirs."
"Utterly unexpected, vivid, and blessedly funny."
-Ernest Callenbach, author of the bestselling Ecotopia and Publisher’s Lunch
"In Surviving Paradise, Peter Rudiak-Gould has pulled off the
improbable: turning a year spent on a remote Pacific island the size of
a shopping mall into a memorable, moving narrative."
-Tony Cohan, author of On Mexican Time and Mexican Days
"With an eye for humor that is fresh and surprising, Peter Rudiak-Gould
lays out the delightful ironies—and the vexing conundrums—of life in
a traditional culture on the brink of change. His tales from the edge
of the world are at times deeply moving, quite often stunningly
insightful, and consistently hilarious. I found myself grinning by page
-Sarah Erdman, author of Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village
"There's magic at work here. Not until late in the book—after he has
seduced you with his humor, poetic prose, and elegant observations
about life on a drowning tropical island—do you realize that the
window Rudiak-Gould has been holding open and allowing you to peek
through is not actually a window, but a brilliantly-disguised mirror."
-Brad Newsham, author of Take Me With You: A Round-the-World Journey to Invite a Stranger Home
"Peter Rudiak-Gould transcends and defies every travel-memoir cliché
(i.e. ‘I went there to save them, but it was they who saved me’),
reinventing the notion of what travel writing can accomplish. From his
rollicking adventures in spear fishing to his efforts to master the
Marshallese language, Rudiak-Gould has written a dynamic narrative of
personal and global transformation that's a joy from departure to
-Liza Monroy, author of Mexican High
"At once a travel narrative, a personal memoir, and an anthropological
excursion, Surviving Paradise is also an utterly charming, often very
funny account of a young man's surreal immersion in a relatively
traditional Pacific culture."
-Lawrence Millman, author of Last Places: A Journey in the North
"Peter Rudiak-Gould went looking for the biggest adventure in the most
faraway place he could imagine. His boyish enchantment with mystery
itself matured into a thoughtful appreciation of the people he came to
know on a primitive island. The resulting memoir is sensitive, funny
-Sharon Dirlam, author of Beyond Siberia: Two Years in a Forgotten Place
Star Tribune, Christian
Science Monitor, Boston
Times, Examiner.com, At
Home with Books, South
Pacific blog, Jason's
and Spice, Travel
Junkie, Vagablogging, Travel
Planet D, Mindful
Bookworm's World, Toronto
J. King, Wandering
Jordan, Gadling, Travel