Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Book Review: "Contents May Have Shifted" by Pam Houston
Pam, the narrator of this absolutely fantastic book, can't seem to stay in one place. An author and writing instructor with little luck on the romantic front, the one thing she seems to have inherited from her dysfunctional parents is a sincere love of travel and a restlessness to explore.
Contents May Have Shifted follows Pam all over the world, from ranches and spas, to monasteries, religious shrines, hotels, and landmarks, in locations as diverse as the American Southwest, Alaska, Bhutan, Tibet, Laos, Spain, Scotland, Newfoundland, and Australia. Sometimes she travels with friends, sometimes colleagues, sometimes lovers (or ex-lovers), and sometimes she is trying to escape it all. And she has no shortage of flying-related complications, whether on a jet plane or a small turbo prop! Pam's (and Pam Houston's) tremendous appreciation for wherever she is and whomever she is with, no matter the circumstances, is both heartwarming and, at times, heartbreaking, but moving all the same.
While this book hooked me from start to finish, especially since the sphere of my personal travel experiences is so narrow, I give you one warning: this book is not told in a linear way, so as it jumps from place to place, it jumps from time to time. Sometimes she's with one partner, sometimes another, and sometimes she's simply dealing with friends and their issues. I think it's a true testament to Houston's skills as a writer that she's able to present such a full story through short snippets told out of temporal order. If you can suspend your need for order and just give in to this book about the joy of travel and relationships, you will love it as much as I did. And if you want more Pam Houston, I highly recommend her short story collections Cowboys are My Weakness and Waltzing the Cat.