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Dear Exile: The True Story of Two Friends Separated (for a Year) by an Ocean

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A funny and moving story told through the letters of two women nurturing a friendship as they are separated by distance, experience, and time. Close friends and former college roommates, Hilary Liftin and Kate Montgomery promised to write when Kate's Peace Corps assignment took her to Africa.  Over the course of a single year, they exchanged an offbeat and moving series of A funny and moving story told through the letters of two women nurturing a friendship as they are separated by distance, experience, and time. Close friends and former college roommates, Hilary Liftin and Kate Montgomery promised to write when Kate's Peace Corps assignment took her to Africa.  Over the course of a single year, they exchanged an offbeat and moving series of letters from rural Kenya to New York City and back again. Kate, an idealistic teacher, meets unexpected realities ranging from poisonous snakes and vengeful cows to more serious hazards: a lack of money for education; a student body in revolt.  Hilary, braving the singles scene in Manhattan, confronts her own realities, from unworthy suitors to job anxiety and first apartment woes.  Their correspondence tells--with humor, warmth, and vivid personal detail--the story of two young women navigating their twenties in very different ways, and of the very special friendships we are sometimes lucky enough to find.


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A funny and moving story told through the letters of two women nurturing a friendship as they are separated by distance, experience, and time. Close friends and former college roommates, Hilary Liftin and Kate Montgomery promised to write when Kate's Peace Corps assignment took her to Africa.  Over the course of a single year, they exchanged an offbeat and moving series of A funny and moving story told through the letters of two women nurturing a friendship as they are separated by distance, experience, and time. Close friends and former college roommates, Hilary Liftin and Kate Montgomery promised to write when Kate's Peace Corps assignment took her to Africa.  Over the course of a single year, they exchanged an offbeat and moving series of letters from rural Kenya to New York City and back again. Kate, an idealistic teacher, meets unexpected realities ranging from poisonous snakes and vengeful cows to more serious hazards: a lack of money for education; a student body in revolt.  Hilary, braving the singles scene in Manhattan, confronts her own realities, from unworthy suitors to job anxiety and first apartment woes.  Their correspondence tells--with humor, warmth, and vivid personal detail--the story of two young women navigating their twenties in very different ways, and of the very special friendships we are sometimes lucky enough to find.

30 review for Dear Exile: The True Story of Two Friends Separated (for a Year) by an Ocean

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I'm somewhat surprised this was published, just because it isn't a fully developed story but a set of letters between two friends while one is in Kenya for the Peace Corps. Not awful but that's just all it is. I'm somewhat surprised this was published, just because it isn't a fully developed story but a set of letters between two friends while one is in Kenya for the Peace Corps. Not awful but that's just all it is.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Heather Springer

    Update 1 Dear Exile is a epistolary, where two friends Kate Motgomery and Hilary Liftin, promised to write each other. The authors, Hilary Liftin and Kate Motgomery, wrote Dear Exile to show people that friendship's can last over long distances and last for life. The intended audience is for anyone who has a friendship with another. The setting takes place in Africa (where Kate is at) and in New York City (where Hilary lives.) Update 2 In Dear Exile so far I have learned how Kate and Hilary origina Update 1 Dear Exile is a epistolary, where two friends Kate Motgomery and Hilary Liftin, promised to write each other. The authors, Hilary Liftin and Kate Motgomery, wrote Dear Exile to show people that friendship's can last over long distances and last for life. The intended audience is for anyone who has a friendship with another. The setting takes place in Africa (where Kate is at) and in New York City (where Hilary lives.) Update 2 In Dear Exile so far I have learned how Kate and Hilary originally met. I also found out how close the two woman were and how much that they have shared. I found it surprising that Kate got married so soon after graduation and then directly left for Africa. Both author's are trying to get their point of friendship across through their letters and try desperately to make sure one another understand how much they miss each other. Yes I found that Dear Exile is believable since, after all, it is based off of the letters shared between the two women. Update 3 In part two, I have learned more about what Kate is doing in Africa along with her husband Dave. Hilary hasn't revealed anything more, just her problems with her "friend". During this both Kate and Hilary still show much affection towards each other through their words. Update 4 Kate and Hilary have a very strong, almost sisterly bond. Nothing surprising has really happened though Hilary did get a 'cyber-boyfriend'. Kate is very supportive of Hilary's romantic interest but yet is also protective of her, telling her to be careful. My interest is slowly dying, not because of the format but because almost all the letters between the women are the same. Yes the story is believable since it is based off of real life, the African words are true everything makes since so far in the wording. I can use some of this information about friendships in my life since I lack skills with my friends and others, also lack of communication. Update 5 In the end it implies that Kate and Hilary will meet again, though it to me seems to be left unfinished. They remain close all the way through the book and keep sharing thoughts and what's happening in their lives. They are an example of true friendship, no matter how far apart they are they still are there for each other through all the trials and hardships in their lives.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elaine Ruth Boe

    I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I didn't think real letters could have such entertaining, even poetic language. The letters were easy to read, but not superficial or frivolous. My heart broke with Kate as she struggled with her students in Kenya. Hilary's descriptions of her dates and other escapades made me feel like I was there with her. These women are very clever and witty writers. I'm envious of the treasure they possess in these letters to each other. Their terms of e I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I didn't think real letters could have such entertaining, even poetic language. The letters were easy to read, but not superficial or frivolous. My heart broke with Kate as she struggled with her students in Kenya. Hilary's descriptions of her dates and other escapades made me feel like I was there with her. These women are very clever and witty writers. I'm envious of the treasure they possess in these letters to each other. Their terms of endearment and other colloquialisms were such fun to read. Who writes letters like these anymore? I want to.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rana

    a charming collection of letters between two friends - one in the peace corps in Kenya and the other in the jungle of NYC. For anyone who has lived in Africa, there will be some definite identification with familiar feelings and experiences.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Laura La Rocca

    Nice This book was bittersweet, thought provoking. I enjoyed it and it made me think about life and the different paths friends take in life

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rebekah Woodland

    So Delightful I felt such joy reading the witty correspondence between two smart, driven women followed by outrage, sadness, comfort, and a million other emotions as each struggled through a rough year, albeit in very different ways. Reading this was unlike reading almost anything I’ve devoured prior to it and it was a refreshing rollercoaster of adventure and enduring friendship. I couldn’t recommend it more.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    Utterly charming! Two best friends are separated for a year and write letters to each other. This is their unusual, revealing correspondence. Their personalities come through clearly and the reader will learn much about a couple of small villages in Africa and how things work (and don't) there. Utterly charming! Two best friends are separated for a year and write letters to each other. This is their unusual, revealing correspondence. Their personalities come through clearly and the reader will learn much about a couple of small villages in Africa and how things work (and don't) there.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Stacy

    I loved this narrative of two brave, independant women finding their way in the world. Their experiences and observations tug at the heartstrings, while their turns of phrase and wit are charming and engaging. The supporting cast of "characters" are just the right mix of people for experiencing life. Beautifully done. I greatly look forward to reading more of Hilary Liftin's work. I loved this narrative of two brave, independant women finding their way in the world. Their experiences and observations tug at the heartstrings, while their turns of phrase and wit are charming and engaging. The supporting cast of "characters" are just the right mix of people for experiencing life. Beautifully done. I greatly look forward to reading more of Hilary Liftin's work.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Les

    My Original Thoughts (1999): Good. Not great, but not bad. Entertaining. Quick read. My Current Thoughts: I have no idea what led me to this book. Maybe, as a letter writer myself, I was drawn to the correspondence between these two women, but I don't remember a thing about their lives or this book. My Original Thoughts (1999): Good. Not great, but not bad. Entertaining. Quick read. My Current Thoughts: I have no idea what led me to this book. Maybe, as a letter writer myself, I was drawn to the correspondence between these two women, but I don't remember a thing about their lives or this book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    I received this book from a friend from whom I am separated by a large land mass, not an ocean. She and this book have reminded me how much I value my friends and how challenging it is to be without them during tough times -- either mine or theirs.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lara

    This was a wonderful book that has stayed with me for years. If you've ever had a best friend or been a best friend, you'll relate to the separation these two endured. Just lovely. This was a wonderful book that has stayed with me for years. If you've ever had a best friend or been a best friend, you'll relate to the separation these two endured. Just lovely.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    2.5 stars.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    this was the one of MANY peace corps memoirs i suffered through (reading material choices were limited to our paltry communal bookshelves in the volunteer lounge of the swaziland peace corps office). anyway, i used to write a monthly literature review box or our volunteer newsletter, and one month i ranted about this genre. below are my thoughts: Dissecting the Peace Corps Memoir One of my least favorite genres of nonfiction is hands-down the “peace corps memoir.” I attribute it to both the f this was the one of MANY peace corps memoirs i suffered through (reading material choices were limited to our paltry communal bookshelves in the volunteer lounge of the swaziland peace corps office). anyway, i used to write a monthly literature review box or our volunteer newsletter, and one month i ranted about this genre. below are my thoughts: Dissecting the Peace Corps Memoir One of my least favorite genres of nonfiction is hands-down the “peace corps memoir.” I attribute it to both the fact that I am a volunteer myself, and thus more critical of the actual content. And then probably due to the sheer volume that I read, I’m picky about writing, appreciating only good prose. More often then not, I feel like returned volunteers have good stories to tell and get book contracts for these stories without actually possessing the literary training or raw talent to pull them off. Even the most talented editors couldn’t fix these calamities. Just to prove that it doesn’t matter how bad of a writer you are, as long as your granddaddy is famous you can get a book deal, Jason Carter’s Power Lines is an embarrassment to his Duke education. Stylistically, his sentences and paragraphs fall flat, lacking cohesion. And grammatically, he leaves the reader reaching for her copy of Strunk & White. The award for most frustrating goes to Susana Herrera whose Mango Elephants in the Sun made me want to jab blunt objects into my eye sockets as I waded through nonsensical odes to lizards and out of place poems. I couldn’t tell if she wanted the reader to feel sorry for her or be envious. I suppose in the end it didn’t matter because I felt neither. I found Sarah Erdman’s Nine Hills to Nambonkaha, one of the newest in the genre, to be nauseatingly pretentious and self-congratulatory. From a literary standpoint, the lack of coherent theme or message was disappointing. As I’ve mentioned in a previous entry, Geneva Sander’s The Gringo Brought His Mother is ridiculously absurd. It’s a memoir written by a volunteer’s mother after a month-long trip to visit her son. The mother is completely nutty and paints a pathetic portrait of her son; then again whose mother actually writes a peace corps memoir ?!?! Moritz Thomsen’s Living Poor was mind-numbingly boring and topped only by Peter Hessler’s River Town. Hessler’s was so dull that even Kelly (training director) couldn’t finish it. And in the “who cares” category is Hilary Liftin and Kate Montgomery’s Dear Exile, a collection of letters the two friends wrote back and forth during Montgomery’s service (Liftin was stateside). The reader is treated to a nearly constant string of Montgomery’s complaints to her friend about rural village life in Kenya. It’s very hard to muster up sympathy for her bouts of diarrhea when I (and all the other volunteers in Swaziland) still heroically troop to the pit latrine through thick and thin. It’s not, however, a complete waste of a genre. Two gems sparkle in the rough including Mike Tidwell’s The Ponds of Kalambayi. Tidwell does not shy away from his own shortcomings and writes candidly of his own vices and addictions. His clear and concise prose paints a vivid and enthralling picture of the fisheries program in Zaire. And then there is George Parker’s The Village of Waiting. The first memoir to take a critical look at post-colonial class, race, and culture issues that surround the Peace Corps experience. Not only is Parker’s writing heads above the best (he’s a Pushcart Prize winning writer whose work has appeared in Harper’s, Dissent, and The New York Times), he’s also brutally honest about his work as white western volunteer living in an African village, acknowledging the inherent problems and paradoxes....less ...less

  14. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Note: this is an old review from my blog Just finished Dear Exile: The True Story of Two Friends Separated (For a Year) by an Ocean by Hilary Liftin & Kate Montgomery. After college Kate married David, joined the Peace Corps, and went to Africa. Hilary stayed in New York City and worked on becoming an adult. The book is the letters they sent back and forth. They are very human letters between friends, not always recapping stories that they already know. The letters show the enduring nature of thei Note: this is an old review from my blog Just finished Dear Exile: The True Story of Two Friends Separated (For a Year) by an Ocean by Hilary Liftin & Kate Montgomery. After college Kate married David, joined the Peace Corps, and went to Africa. Hilary stayed in New York City and worked on becoming an adult. The book is the letters they sent back and forth. They are very human letters between friends, not always recapping stories that they already know. The letters show the enduring nature of their friendship and the undisguised love that women can have for each other. It also gives a real picture of what goes on in African schools and how difficult life is over there. However, despite the fact that Kate worries about living in a town where the water is found unfit for human consumption she never belittles Hilary's problems finding an apartment. Here are a couple of my favorite bits: From Hilary, on being single: I know that you are hot and being slowly poisoned by drinking oil. Even so, what you have to concede is that couples have it better under all circumstances. Being single means carrying groceries home, eating them, reading, and eventually falling asleep and waking up and doing it all again. But when you're in a couple you carry groceries together. Someone slices while you dice; someone sits n the toilet lid to talk while you brush; and when you settle down to read, someone's leg flops over your leg, a reminder that you are attractive, that you are loved, that even in you solitary activities someone is considering you, that life has meaning. Not only am I alone every night, but I actively, painfully miss my yet-unfound Dave every day as if he were lost at sea. From Kate, who is teaching at a school that brutally canes students for low grades and even minor infractions: ...Dave and I feel so strongly that what is going on is horrible, and everyone around us thinks it's just fine. Of course it's all about what a person is raised to believe, it could all be called culture, but I wasn't raised to believe this, and I can't be open-minded about it. Cultural assimilation is all fine and good when it's about not having electricity, eating unfamiliar food, and gesturing for people to come nearer with you palm facing down, not up, but abusing those "below" you is something else entirely. And on top of that, I don't know if this stuff is really Kenyan culture or the culture left over from British colonialism, or culture created by poverty and hopelessness. From Hilary, who feels she isn't contributing to the world: When I think about it, it's painfully obvious that not once did my parents say: Young Hilary, you gotta put something back in the pot. Is that strange to you? I was reared to be a good friend but not a good citizen. From Hilary, after breaking up with her boyfriend: I hate the idea that he continues to pay his phone bills, to button his shirts, to age, to eat, to read or not read the newspaper. I hate that he lives in real time, that everything he does involves the decision that he didn't want to do it with me. Somewhere he's filling up his gas tank and I'm thinking about the way his arm looks doing that. I'm thinking about how he held his coffee cup when he drove. How his fingers looked, by themselves and against mine.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Corinne

    I was impressed that real letters were filled with such insight and poetic language. After college, Kate gets married and joins the Peace Corps with her husband, while Hilary stays behind and has adventures in successful adulting. They're both great writers, but I confess I found Kate's missives about struggling with justice vs culture and living in horrific conditions much more thought provoking than Hilary's, though Hilary does reflect being equally lost (searching for affordable housing, taki I was impressed that real letters were filled with such insight and poetic language. After college, Kate gets married and joins the Peace Corps with her husband, while Hilary stays behind and has adventures in successful adulting. They're both great writers, but I confess I found Kate's missives about struggling with justice vs culture and living in horrific conditions much more thought provoking than Hilary's, though Hilary does reflect being equally lost (searching for affordable housing, taking jobs no one understands, having various relationships with sucky men who do not treat her well). I really, really felt like I was watching Seinfeld. Also, Kate's husband is hilarious. I enjoy his short postscripts. The book is a bit dated now (Hilary is explaining what instant messenger and cybersex are to her overseas friend, who is shocked to learn that there are now blue M&M's). They seem unable to keep up their closeness when Kate returns, or perhaps its just too strange being exiles in the same city. A believeable ending, most friendships are usually in a flux state when you're becoming an adult, but a bit melancholy as well. Overall, this is anecdote gold, but I am curious in the motivations of the authors in publishing it. Is there a message they were hoping to convey? Preserving all that is important in friendship for posterity? Make a few bucks? 3.5 stars

  16. 4 out of 5

    Raquel

    Do you like being reminded how amazing your best friend is? Do you sometimes wish you HAD a best friend? One who would write poems for you, ask questions like they cared, and took more time to tell you about their day than they did to check their Facebook status? If so, this book is for you! Dear Exhile Both women are witty, thoughtful, and compassionate. I almost couldn't believe that the letters in this book were real; they were written with such feeling that it seems impossible these two women Do you like being reminded how amazing your best friend is? Do you sometimes wish you HAD a best friend? One who would write poems for you, ask questions like they cared, and took more time to tell you about their day than they did to check their Facebook status? If so, this book is for you! Dear Exhile Both women are witty, thoughtful, and compassionate. I almost couldn't believe that the letters in this book were real; they were written with such feeling that it seems impossible these two women existed, wrote such amazing thoughts down, and then decided to grace the world with these excerpts from their lives. Kate: In the Peace Corps, traveling with her husband, caring and quick-witted. Hilary: Employment is a mystery, as is love and the direction her life will take. She is sweet and sensitive, yet also astute and self aware. Read it. You won't regret it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    When I first ordered this book I was very excited to plunge into a true story about adventure and the complexity of real friendship. Unfortunately, if like me you are looking for a heartfelt book like that then this is not the book for you. I was left wanting so much more out of Hilary and Kate's friendship. I wanted them to embrace when Kate came back from Kenya and I wanted the epilogue of the book to still show they were best friends after Kate came back a changed person and that they remaine When I first ordered this book I was very excited to plunge into a true story about adventure and the complexity of real friendship. Unfortunately, if like me you are looking for a heartfelt book like that then this is not the book for you. I was left wanting so much more out of Hilary and Kate's friendship. I wanted them to embrace when Kate came back from Kenya and I wanted the epilogue of the book to still show they were best friends after Kate came back a changed person and that they remained in each others lives. But this book doesn't give you that satisfaction, and it left me wanting so much more and feeling empty by the end of it. Kate's story was captivating while Hilary's seemed to drag in comparison and her personality came across often times as being vain but self aware. By the end of the story I was thoroughly annoyed by Hilary even though her writing is poignant and relatable. I do recommend you give this book a chance, but I think you will either end up unfulfilled or content with the bittersweet truthfulness behind adult friendship. It's a good read and I love the fact that the two women published their letters like this, but I just personally did not get what I was expecting out of it.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I would rate this about a 3 1/2. I think my largest problem is it is fairly unrelatable in my world. My friends and I exchange letters and they are not nearly so well written, witty and descriptive. I feel that some of the letters are just too contrived, or they have somehow been re-written to make them seem more interesting. Maybe not. Maybe these were actual letters, unedited, untouched. If so, then they are both extremely good letter writers, and I am jealous of their natural flair and gift. My I would rate this about a 3 1/2. I think my largest problem is it is fairly unrelatable in my world. My friends and I exchange letters and they are not nearly so well written, witty and descriptive. I feel that some of the letters are just too contrived, or they have somehow been re-written to make them seem more interesting. Maybe not. Maybe these were actual letters, unedited, untouched. If so, then they are both extremely good letter writers, and I am jealous of their natural flair and gift. My heart broke for the students in kenya. My heart broke for Kate who had no running water and had to live in the pit of hell for a year doing her best with her circumstances...corrupt school officials, death, malaria, disease, chunky water etc. Hilary seemed flaky and hard to pin down in some spots. Kind of a sex in the city gal. Dont know what it was. I am sure that not all the letters were included, so we cant fill in the gaps. she did have a few memorable moments, like the crazy neighbor who swears she is trying to kill him with electrical pulses. I felt it ended kind of abruptly though. Would have liked some more background and resolution.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Caity

    Dear Exile was, simply put, a revealing collection of letters between two young women. Kate, struggling to live in Kenya while serving with the Peace Corps with her husband, had to battle things generally perceived as some of the worst injustices in the world: beating children for not scoring well on a test they weren't prepared for by their teachers, terrible sanitation in all ways possible, lack of decent food available to those surrounding them, and, possibly worst of all, the refusal to even Dear Exile was, simply put, a revealing collection of letters between two young women. Kate, struggling to live in Kenya while serving with the Peace Corps with her husband, had to battle things generally perceived as some of the worst injustices in the world: beating children for not scoring well on a test they weren't prepared for by their teachers, terrible sanitation in all ways possible, lack of decent food available to those surrounding them, and, possibly worst of all, the refusal to even try to do anything by those seen as authority figures. At the same time, Hilary struggles with finding her life in NYC - dating, bad neighbors, and getting a job she can go to every day without dreading at least one aspect of it. Through all of their struggles, I found their separate but parallel storylines to be intriguing, funny, interesting, disgusting, and whole-heartedly too strange to be fiction. I loved this book and reading about the good and the bad of the life of then-PCV Kate Montgomery, especially as someone who is interested in applying for the Peace Corps at some point in the not-that-distant future.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Enjoyed reading the letters between friends and getting a glimpse into life in Kenya as a member of the PeaceCorps. As a twenty-something, I could relate to some of the sentiments expressed about young adult life and accomplishments (or rather what feels like a lack thereof). One of my favorites from a letter of Hilary's: "When I started my first job, I remember having a separate work persona, which I couldn't reconcile with my home life. Now those two personas have pretty much merged. I am offic Enjoyed reading the letters between friends and getting a glimpse into life in Kenya as a member of the PeaceCorps. As a twenty-something, I could relate to some of the sentiments expressed about young adult life and accomplishments (or rather what feels like a lack thereof). One of my favorites from a letter of Hilary's: "When I started my first job, I remember having a separate work persona, which I couldn't reconcile with my home life. Now those two personas have pretty much merged. I am officially a working stooge. I know there was a reason I kept those two lives separate, but now I'm not even sure what I have sacrificed. As a working girl what can't I do or think? It seems that as the years pass, conformity will fester and spread." This book made me laugh out loud and sometimes wonder who would be my writing pal(s) if I went away for an extended period of time. Knowing that I'm not-so-great at keeping in touch, even with those close by, I'm not sure if I would have a similar experience but enjoyed looking in on theirs. Also, the ending caught me by surprise. Unexpected but very realistic. I liked that.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Holly Booms Walsh

    This is the good version of "chick lit" - the kind that is less about shoes and great sales at Barney's and more about the truly deep friendships that women (who are lucky enough to do so) can form. This "book" is a collection of letters written during a year's time between a girl who goes to Africa to be a teacher in the Peace Corps and her friend left behind in New York, just having graduated college and getting her first job. The NY one is a bit annoying in that her life is all about loser bo This is the good version of "chick lit" - the kind that is less about shoes and great sales at Barney's and more about the truly deep friendships that women (who are lucky enough to do so) can form. This "book" is a collection of letters written during a year's time between a girl who goes to Africa to be a teacher in the Peace Corps and her friend left behind in New York, just having graduated college and getting her first job. The NY one is a bit annoying in that her life is all about loser boyfriends and jobs at dot-coms, while the Africa girl is trying to fix the world amid mud, poor water, and bugs. This is anot a very in depth, serious Peace Corps memoir either. The strikign thing about this "book" is the very authentic love taht they share, their inside jokes and witticisms, and the way they support and compliment each other. It reminds me of the best letters between my sisters and long-distance friends and myself, and it made me bemoan the lack of letter-writing in the world today. Plus it is a quick, easy read, that you can set down between letters.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Emilie

    This book was definitely engaging. The letters between the two friends in Kenya and NYC were witty and insightful, but I had a really hard time believing that they were written in so formal a style. I like a well-written letter, but these letters included descriptive narrative that seems a bit too planned out to be spontaneous. Having said that, whether the authenticity of the writing is plausible or not, the book is a great read....offering insights into both the world of impoverished Africa an This book was definitely engaging. The letters between the two friends in Kenya and NYC were witty and insightful, but I had a really hard time believing that they were written in so formal a style. I like a well-written letter, but these letters included descriptive narrative that seems a bit too planned out to be spontaneous. Having said that, whether the authenticity of the writing is plausible or not, the book is a great read....offering insights into both the world of impoverished Africa and a corrupt school system and, at the same time, into the life of a single woman living in NYC. The women's banter is overtly affectionate....almost to the point of excess....so it is interesting to note that the book ends at a place where they live in the same city and yet have never taken the opportunity to sit down and really talk after Kate's return from Africa. This also made the letters seem forced. I enjoyed the insights of their individual lives much more than considering the central them of the book to be their friendship.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    Generally, I feel that books like this are kind of self-indulgent--like the authors just want to showcase how witty they are, even when writing letters that are totally not intended for publication. I liked this for the insight about Kate's Peace Corps experience, even though it was depressing. I think this book illustrated much of what I've read about over and over in documents written to prepare people for returning from Peace Corps. Overall, your friends and family might not really get what you Generally, I feel that books like this are kind of self-indulgent--like the authors just want to showcase how witty they are, even when writing letters that are totally not intended for publication. I liked this for the insight about Kate's Peace Corps experience, even though it was depressing. I think this book illustrated much of what I've read about over and over in documents written to prepare people for returning from Peace Corps. Overall, your friends and family might not really get what you're experiencing. They might not even care all that much, beyond what the weather is like and what you ate. I feel like this book is a good example of that, and I don't think it was intended to be. Kate would write letters about teaching in a school where students are whipped, where walls are crumbling, where there are no bathrooms and students have to pee outside in the trees. And Hilary would write about how she had cybersex. I guess they have a charming friendship, though. Whatever.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Caeli

    This was my first peace corps memoir I have read. Having the two friends publish their letters made it entertaining to read, I could not put this short read down! I read this book because I wanted to learn more about peace corps. I found that the age of these two women was relatable to me just finishing my degree and figuring out what to do next in my life. It was easy two ready because these women are expressing their inner thoughts in paper to each other as they cannot do in passing moments of This was my first peace corps memoir I have read. Having the two friends publish their letters made it entertaining to read, I could not put this short read down! I read this book because I wanted to learn more about peace corps. I found that the age of these two women was relatable to me just finishing my degree and figuring out what to do next in my life. It was easy two ready because these women are expressing their inner thoughts in paper to each other as they cannot do in passing moments of time together in person. I found reading about Hilary's job refreshing as she gets involved with the coming age of computers, as well as with Kate who is discovering life in Africa is not just about living in a hutch adjusting to culture differences, but it was also about how she coped with the corruption (and illness) she ran into. All these things are happening to these women in their twenty something age where nothing is permanent and still finding oneself with a new love, apartment, and completely different lifestyle changes.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    This is, by far, my favorite Peace Corps book. Most are flowery and overbearing in their descriptions of beauty, “Mango Elephants in the Sun” comes to mind. The title even makes me cringe. This book is between two friends – one who goes to Kenya with her husband to teach and the other who lives life in New York. I read this once during Peace Corps and was lucky to find it hiding in a stack of books at the recent library book sale for $1. As I read it again, it struck me how many stories were sim This is, by far, my favorite Peace Corps book. Most are flowery and overbearing in their descriptions of beauty, “Mango Elephants in the Sun” comes to mind. The title even makes me cringe. This book is between two friends – one who goes to Kenya with her husband to teach and the other who lives life in New York. I read this once during Peace Corps and was lucky to find it hiding in a stack of books at the recent library book sale for $1. As I read it again, it struck me how many stories were similar to ours. They may not have happened yet when I last read the book. We had inspectors come and one of our teachers ran away. We had a riot at our school. Our girls described a witch in their midst. Beyond the similar stories is a similar feeling – the book is full of sadness, humor and frustration.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    Kate Montgomery and Hilary Liftin were college roommates. After graduation, Kate and her husband David went to Kenya with Peace Corps. Because of difficulties with their posting, they left after a year and returned to the States. The book is from the collection of letters Kate and Hilary wrote to each other during that year. Drama! Kate and David's post was changed after a few months due to the water being unfit to drink. Their second post was only a little better - water was OK but the school Kate Montgomery and Hilary Liftin were college roommates. After graduation, Kate and her husband David went to Kenya with Peace Corps. Because of difficulties with their posting, they left after a year and returned to the States. The book is from the collection of letters Kate and Hilary wrote to each other during that year. Drama! Kate and David's post was changed after a few months due to the water being unfit to drink. Their second post was only a little better - water was OK but the school situation was so poor that the students rioted. Rather than take a third post, they left. When the letters weren't whining about conditions in Kenya, they were Hilary's letters whining about boyfriend issues - who she had and had not slept with. While this can be things two close friends could write to each other, it wasn't what I wanted to read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Joselle173

    While Kate (and her husband) are in the Peace Corps serving in Kenya and Hilary is in NYC living Sex in the City (or so it seems), they correspond to each other. The book is a compliation of their letters to each other. While the reviews of the book seemed to indicate the book is a deep exploration into friendship and modern women's lives, I found it to be less in-depth. The letters felt more like two women bantering back and forth, even about serious things. They are definitely witty, humorous While Kate (and her husband) are in the Peace Corps serving in Kenya and Hilary is in NYC living Sex in the City (or so it seems), they correspond to each other. The book is a compliation of their letters to each other. While the reviews of the book seemed to indicate the book is a deep exploration into friendship and modern women's lives, I found it to be less in-depth. The letters felt more like two women bantering back and forth, even about serious things. They are definitely witty, humorous letters, though. And while there's some looking below the surface of their lives, there's not much of it, imo. Not until the end do the women get a little more serious about the challenges each face.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a quick read, and I also didn't want to put it down. Two women, Hilary and Kate write letters to each other while Kate and her husband, Dave, are in Kenya with the Peace Corps. I was able to read about Kate and Dave being teachers in a Kenyan school, and it being so awful that they end up leaving both schools, but making it the full year abroad. Hilary is in NYC, and moves jobs quite a bit, but always has something that she's doing. She also moves and da I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a quick read, and I also didn't want to put it down. Two women, Hilary and Kate write letters to each other while Kate and her husband, Dave, are in Kenya with the Peace Corps. I was able to read about Kate and Dave being teachers in a Kenyan school, and it being so awful that they end up leaving both schools, but making it the full year abroad. Hilary is in NYC, and moves jobs quite a bit, but always has something that she's doing. She also moves and dates around a lot, but by the end she lives in her own apartment that she purchased, but is sans a man.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    Letters sent back and forth between Hillary (finding her way in a new career in New York) and her friend Kate (volunteering with the Peace Corps in Africa) capture a year in their lives. Good thing: Both of these ladies are very relatable - Hillary for knowing that a guy is bad for her but still pining after him and Kate for being so willing to try and help African students. Bad thing: The epilogue didn't ruin the book for me, but it definitely flattened the enjoyment. I enjoy epistolary novels and Letters sent back and forth between Hillary (finding her way in a new career in New York) and her friend Kate (volunteering with the Peace Corps in Africa) capture a year in their lives. Good thing: Both of these ladies are very relatable - Hillary for knowing that a guy is bad for her but still pining after him and Kate for being so willing to try and help African students. Bad thing: The epilogue didn't ruin the book for me, but it definitely flattened the enjoyment. I enjoy epistolary novels and these are both good writers. I've read Liftin's memoir involving candy and liked that as well.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tayla

    This was an interesting read. It consists of letters written between two college friends. One serving in the Peace Corp in Africa, the other working some vaguely described office job in NYC. The juxtaposition is inherently appealing and it makes for a pretty quick and interesting read. I somewhat question the claim that these are the original letters, though. To my mind there must have been some editing/embelishment, but I may just be a cynic. A great read if you're thinking about the Peace Corp This was an interesting read. It consists of letters written between two college friends. One serving in the Peace Corp in Africa, the other working some vaguely described office job in NYC. The juxtaposition is inherently appealing and it makes for a pretty quick and interesting read. I somewhat question the claim that these are the original letters, though. To my mind there must have been some editing/embelishment, but I may just be a cynic. A great read if you're thinking about the Peace Corp (or if you know you couldn't commit to that, but have always been curious about what it's like).

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