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Foreign Correspondence


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About the Author

Geraldine Brooks is the author of four novels, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Marchand the international bestsellers Caleb's Crossing, People of the Book, and Year of Wonders. She has also written the acclaimed nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Her most recent novel, Caleb's Crossing, was the winner of the New England Book Award for Fiction and the Christianity TodayBook Award, and was a finalist for the Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction. Born and raised in Australia, she lives on Martha's Vineyard with her husband, the author Tony Horwitz.


Growing up in middle-class Sydney, Australia, Brooks acquired pen pals from all over the world. More than 20 years later, after she became a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, she tracked down a few of them to see "how they had been treated by history...and to get in touch with" the child she herself had been. Brooks relates her search in this competent but unexciting memoir of her youth and what she knew of that of her pen pals. Two of these discoveries stand out: near Tel Aviv, she finds an Israeli who initially doesn't remember writing to her and when he does, he wonders why she has bothered to find him; the other, an Arab, living not far from him, is so warm and outgoing that Brooks feels he has "humanized the Arab world" for her. In New Jersey, she learns that one of her pen pals is dead but is welcomed by her mother; in a village of the Vaucluse, in France, one of her favorite correspondents has become a settled matron; in Manhattan's East Village, she discovers that another has become a nightclub owner. In the end, however, they remain people of more interest to Brooks than to the reader, who may find the journeys more intriguing than the arrivals. (Jan.)

YA-Bored with her insular life in a suburb of Sydney, Australia, 11-year-old Geraldine Brooks turned to pen pals as an antidote. Her correspondence began across town with the daughter of a favorite journalist whose cosmopolitan life was a striking contrast to that of her own working-class family. Other pen pals included Joanie from New Jersey; Mishal, an Israeli Christian Arab; Cohen, an Israeli Jew; and Janine, a farmer's daughter who wrote from a tiny French village. Geraldine's global correspondence is enlightening, entertaining, myth shattering, and heartbreaking. In Joanie, she found a true and rare soulmate; however, the girl suffered a hidden anguish, hints of which were dismissed by her Australian friend. When Joanie died from anorexia, Geraldine's grief and regret moved her to greater knowledge and deeper compassion. The author grew up to become a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, living the life she sought vicariously from her pen pals. Her return home upon her father's death and the rediscovery of the letters prompted her to find out what happened to those individuals. Her efforts were met with enthusiasm by all except Mishal, and the subsequent meetings with the reluctant Israeli as well as with Joanie's mother provided satisfying closure. The last pages of the memoir find the mature adventurer coming full circle to an appreciation for the small-town life she had once so derided. The desire to explore the lives of others and to express one's individuality is strong in most young adults, who will readily identify with this intriguing memoir.-Jackie Gropman, Kings Park Library, Burke, VA

"Geraldine Brooks' talent is unique: she combines the hardest-hitting reporting with a true writer's sensitivity and an empathy rare for anyone. In Foreign Correspondence she trains her lucid gaze on the turmoil of female adolescence and by doing so brings us a dazzling range of insights that extend beyond introspection to raise questions about national identity in an increasingly global culture."--Naomi Wolf, author of Promiscuities

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