Book Review: The Sex Lives of Cannibals

untitledIf one were paying close attention to the books I review on this blog, one might notice the general lack of timeliness. I would like to address that briefly and then move on with the hilarity that this The Sex Lives of Cannibals.

Here’s the deal: I rarely buy books new, and I even more rarely buy recently released new books. The purpose of these book reviews is not to give you, oh dear readers, the latest and greatest in the noveling world. My aspirations are much more selfish.

I do not write reviews for every book I read. Instead, I write reviews for books that I feel are important in some way or spoke to me on a personal level. If you are interested in the sort of book reviews that come out immediately preceding or following a book’s release, I beg you go elsewhere, and return when I post something you really are interested in.

And onward.

The Sex Lives of Cannibals is, in a word, hilarious. It’s been on my radar for several years as a book I’d like to read, and when I stumbled upon it at Half Price Books shortly after moving to Texas, I immediately snatched it up.

The author, J. Maarten Troost, and his then-girlfriend, Silvia, move to a small atoll (it doesn’t even get to be called an island) in the equatorial Pacific. Adventure ensues.

They handle it better than most people would, including myself. From an abundance of fish to a lack of anything else, really, to mangy dogs running around and, occasionally, being casually eaten, life on Tarawa is intense at times, heartbreaking at times, but Maarten always takes the funny road.

For me, this book was the ultimate escapist fantasy. This isn’t fantasy—this place actually exists—but it takes on a quality so fantastic that by the middle of the book, when Princess Diana dies and the entire population is clamoring for any tidbit of information, I forgot that there was a wider world out there, a world with taxis and airports that run on time and no pigs wandering across the runway and water straight from the tap.

When Maarten and Sylvia return to the States, I felt their culture shock, and I laughed until I cried partly at the picture Maarten painted and partly because the pace at which we set our lives, the standard of living, is all so ridiculous compared to so much of the world.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good laugh, anyone who has ever wanted to go live on a deserted island or anyone who wants to know a little more about a very far corner of the world.

The only drawback to the book is some of the history bits get a little long-winded and not grounded in the personal experience. This is especially true in the first part of the book. When bored, skip ahead. It’s good material, but there were several information dumps that felt out of context with the rest of the story and broke the narrative flow. I wish he had weaved the history more instead of letting it stand alone.


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