Merry Wanderer of the Night + travel writing

The Moon, Come to Earth

The Moon, Come to Earth: Dispatches from Lisbon

by Philip Graham is a travel book about a year he spent with his wife and daughter in Lisbon. On the surface, that is. When I began reading this book I was excited to read about Portugal, a place that has always mystified me. What I got instead was an amazing account on fatherhood, growing up, and finding yourself.

The book is a series of dispatches for McSweeney's and begins like a trip begins, how they go there. It moves to unpacking their items in their new apartment and on to exploring the nooks and crannies of Lisbon. Graham writes beautifully about the culture, inserting the Portuguese language at the most key of moments and speaking honestly about the good and the bad of Lisbon. He is definitely a narrator you can trust.

As the book moved on, for me, it became less about Lisbon and more about Graham's twelve-year-old daughter Hannah. She struggles at her first school where she knows none of the language and is bullied by other kids. After switching to a new school she finally starts to find her place and fit in, but only after a crash course in Portuguese and changing her eating habits. As a girl on the brink of adolescence she faces challenges that her parents do not face, and perhaps do not entirely see. Graham takes the blame too, he admits that taking his daughter to Lisbon might have been a bad idea. At the end Hannah does love Libson, and wants to return immediately, so there is a sense not all was lost.

Overall this was a fascinating book, one of my favorites I've read this year. It's a quick read and I truly think there is something in here for all of us.

Paperback: 168 pages
Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (November 15, 2009)
Language: English

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The Moon, Come to Earth + travel writing