This is a book that is like a Tardis. It is bigger inside than it is outside. By that I mean that there is on the surface of this young man’s memoir of a month spent in primitive conditions at a turtle conservancy in Costa Rica, and then there is interwoven an introspective reflection on his life, and then there is this overlay (or maybe it is an underlayment) of a philosophical examination of life and life’s purpose.
I liked it. I did not find it LOL funny, as the plot description and other reviewers have found it. That is because I don’t find serious explorations of our internal angst couched in humorous tones funny. I mostly find them poignant. So I am probably the only reader who comes away from this book feeling it is emotional and touching, and (from the great heights of my [cough cough]age), most of all, heartbreakingly young.
The fellow volunteers are all improbably strange and outlandish, his two companions who traveled with him are odd as well, and the whole story is of a world off kilter and “out of joint”, and Hamlet would have felt right at home there along the crocodile-infested waters of the local river, trying to get his bearings.
Throughout his stay in Costa Rica, our author was reading Zora Neale Huston’s 1937 classic Their Eyes Were Watching God, whose opening line is
Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in.
Their Eyes Were Watching God was a seminal work in the canon of African-American literature, and as the time progresses at the conservancy, the protagonist of Their Eyes begins to speak to our author, and is a running thread through the book as a voice in his head.
I am not sure just how much of this is straight fact, and how much has been fictionalized, but life in the turtle camp was as surreal as I find Mexico to be at times, so it is hard to say with any certainty. You will have to read it for yourself, and maybe you might find it lighter and funnier than I did. Maybe I read too much into it. But that’s what books are for — you bring yourself to every volume you read.