Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Beginner's Guide to Paradise

Title:  A Beginner's Guide to Paradise
Author:  Alex Sheshunoff
Publication Information:  NAL. 2015. 464 pages.
ISBN:  0451475860 / 978-0451475862

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Ten days aboard the Microspirit, an aptly named freighter not so much threatened by rust as held together by it, convicted me that it was time to pick an island."

Favorite Quote:  "Given that compromises were inevitable, if you don't start with the ideal, you certainly won't get there. Put another way, people rarely exceed their own expectations so might as well start big and work backward from there."

How many people dream of closing up shop, leaving everything behind, and finding paradise on a tropical island somewhere? My guess is many, including me. How many people actually do it? My guess is almost none, again including me. Well, Alex Sheshunoff did.

His biographic note states that he currently lives with his wife and two children in California. That tells you that his adventure in paradise comes to an end. How it begins is with a twenty-something year old man running his own dot com enterprise in the heart of New York City. Burnt out and disenchanted with what he himself terms "First World problems," he decides to make a drastic change. With little planning or preparation, he sets off to find a new life in the South Pacific.

Two huge presumptions underlie his ability to do so. First, he has the financial means to remove himself from his business, support his move and finance his life at his destination. Second, he is able to walk away from his commitments and relationships. He breaks up with his girlfriend, says goodbye to friends and family, and is on his way.

This book is his off-the-wall, humorous documentation of his adventure in paradise. From Step 1-Make Some Big Choices to Step 9-Live Pretty Much Happily Ever After, the book is about the people he meets (including his future wife), the friends he makes, the local culture he encounters, and the lessons he learns. The lessons learned range from very simple acts of living to life shifts in attitudes - from a recipe for reconstituted hash browns to how to build a house on a remote Pacific Island to "concentrating on what's important-not the city where you live or the house you live in."

The book is not a reflective tome, looking at serious life choices. It is not a how-to for your own flight to paradise. It is a light hearted look at an adventure. Parts of the book have me laughing and sharing his (mis)adventures. Part of it has me wondering about his reading choices for he does indeed bring 100 actual books with him to. Part of it has me looking on in awe for he actually does what so many dream of doing. What's not to like about the idea of lounging on a beautiful beach under the palms with a book to read! His reality does not quite match that ideal, and that has me laughing again.

The pace of the book is about what you expect from a casual stroll down a beautiful beach - slow and unhurried with many stops along the way to see whatever catches his fancy. Given the pace of the book, the ending seems rather abrupt. Having read his short bio before reading the book, I knew he does not ending up permanently in his island paradise. However, I did not expect the end to be so soon or so sudden. What seemed to me to be the beginning of his life on the island turns out to be almost the end of his time on the island. His next move took him to Alaska, then to South Africa, and then back to Alaska. Apparently, the search for paradise continued well beyond the island. Wonder if more stories of his adventures are to come?

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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