Author Laura Fraser’s account of coming to terms with and then learning to love her place in the world
Being a woman, a writer and an avid traveler, I was intrigued by Laura Fraser’s new book, “All Over the Map.” Travel writing may sound glamorous, but it can be an exhausting and sometimes frightening job. Many of the world’s farthest flung corners, once you set foot in their squalid streets, no longer seem exotic but downright scary. On the other hand, being a travel writer presents a string of riveting sensory experiences that remain engrained on your memory far after the reality has faded into the past. But perhaps more than a focus on travel writing, Fraser’s book, dubbed a “coming of middle-age memoir” by Booklist, is a look into the life of an independent woman who is coming to terms with her internal struggle for excitement and security. In short, she wants to have someone to come home to.
Fraser, whom you may remember from her sexy, bestselling memoir “An Italian Affair,” has penned the new tome as a follow-up to the first, recounting the many adventures she has had since she reached her fortieth decade. After her marriage ended in divorce and her dreamlike affair with a Frenchman ended in heartbreak, Fraser finds herself at a turning point in her life. A college reunion leaves her further pondering the choices she has made as in this excerpt from the book, “I find myself fantasizing about the men at the reunion—How did I overlook this wonderful guy? Why can’t we run off together now and try again?—but most are married; and not only are there rules about married men, there are delusions, on both sides, about still-single women they may have gazed at in government class or smooched and never slept with decades ago.” The insecurity of pondering past choices sometimes haunts the pages, a feeling that surely resonates with many.
Traveling as a woman alone is not always easy, as Fraser discovered the hard way while on assignment in Samoa. One too many drinks finds her judgment skewed and she ends up with a strange man on a secluded beach, painfully afraid and regretful of her choices in the morning. The harrowing experience left her fragile, frightened and on the verge of losing her wanderlust and self-love. But through the encouragement of friends and the pull of her career Fraser faced her fears and began to travel solo, once again finding the solitude of one’s own thoughts to be a tremendously rewarding experience. “As a traveler, I know it’s impossible to repeat amazing chance experiences, you have to appreciate them fully for the moment you’re there; life is just a series of those present moments, adding up,” a passage from Fraser’s book poetically reads. And one gets the feeling that this author genuinely lives what she says.
As Fraser recounts her multitude of various travel tales such as tangoing in Buenos Aires and traversing the Amazon, she reports not only on her own experiences and struggles, but those of women around the world. Her insightful interviews and watchful eye for uncovering small details about the travails and expectations of women from Argentina to Italy to Rwanda lends “All Over the Map” an exciting, journalistic quality.
Eventually the author finds herself in the quaint city of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where she realizes that having a home and family does not have to be that of the traditional sense, but that it is a conscious state of mind that lends one a sense of security and peace.
Part travelogue, part self-help and part romance, as in, “Now it’s been four years, and I know that if this time I do see him again, it won’t be as a lover. But that’s fine, too. I’m moving ahead and haven’t lost those years I spent with him. All those beautiful moments—sipping wine and staring at the volcanoes in the distance, making love with open eyes, wandering around Moroccan alleys holding hands—don’t go away. The love in your life adds up,” Fraser’s “All Over the Map” is a courageous tale of a woman taking her life into her own hands and shaping it into her own wonderful creation. Although it may not be the life she imagined for herself, Fraser is content in her little piece of the world and has made peace with both her past and her unknown future.
Laura Fraser speaks at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 16. Capitola Book Café, 1475 41st Ave., Capitola. For more information, call Capitola Book Café at 462-4415 or visit capitolabookcafe.com.