I received an ARC of Married to Bhutan from a friend, who just happens to be the author, Linda Leaming. Aha!, you say. Good words for a friend! But no. She didn’t ask me to write a review, she merely shared her work. And anyone who knows me is aware that I’m a picky reader—and blunt. If I had not found merit in Married to Bhutan, I would not be writing THIS review.
A "twitter" overview: Woman travels in Asia; becomes enamored with the small country Bhutan; decides to live and work there; marries a Bhutanese man and finds contentment.
But the book is more than a chronology of events. In this book, Leaming not only tells how she came to be in Bhutan, but describes the country and the people in a way that makes the reader understand why she has lived there for more than fifteen years. Insight into her own character and what Bhutan gave to her is interspersed with anecdotal stories of her adjustment. She pokes fun at herself quite often, and recognizes what a novelty she has been for her friends and Bhutanese family.
Through her descriptions, the environment comes alive. I feel that if I were to go to Bhutan tomorrow, I would recognize towns and landscapes. Unlike a travel pamphlet, the book is rich with imagery that describes the land as Leaming experiences it: her walk to work in the morning, her arduous trek to a high mountain retreat; riding along the narrow spirally roads to get from one valley, over the mountains to the next. All five senses are stimulated with Leaming's excellent writing.
Leaming shows how the awesome geography and environment has shaped the people, and has also insulated Bhutan from many cultural changes. On occasion, she speaks of her own frustration brought on by her American upbringing in this society so different from Tennessee. She has the ability to stand back and make quality observations about her own reactions as well as the attitudes and reactions of those around her, even her husband Namgay.
With Married to Bhutan Leaming offers readers a glimpse into a different lifestyle that, for her, was the a good match. If you like history (researched and validated), it's here, along with thousand-year-old stories of culture and philosophy. The strength of the book is in the presentation: it's not pedantic, not breast-beating or patronizing, but a quiet and skillful unfolding of a life rich in complexity and peace of mind.