Similar to running away with the circus, running off to a live on a small island is a fantasy that few people ever make a reality. Those of us who don't chase that dream, have to armchair travel with books like Alex Sheshunoff's A Beginner's Guide to Paradise. Thank you to the Penguin Group for an advanced copy of Sheshunoff's memoir, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT- Alex Sheshunoff is having a quarter-life crisis. He is no longer finding satisfaction at the dot.com company that he founded and his relationship has started to fizzle. He needs to be knocked out of his rut and his solution is to sublet his apartment and go off to the pacific in search of a tropical paradise. He purchases a one-way ticket and brings a hundred books that he "always wanted to read" to give himself a sense of structure. As he island hops, he learns many valuable lessons and even manages to fall in love.
LIKE- Sheshunoff is funny and a majority of his memoir is a light-hearted read. Nothing truly disastrous happens during his adventure, but there are plenty of bumps in the road that give him gentle life-lessons and that make this an entertaining read.
Sheshunoff structures each chapter by posing a few humorously worded questions that set the stage for his next lesson in island living. These teaser openings made me keep reading " just one more chapter" and I finished the memoir in two days. The chapters are like potato chips (or cats) , you can't have just one.
I admire Sheshunoff's sense of adventure, optimism and determination. He really checks his ego at the door and humbly tries to live in different cultures, thriving on new experiences. He's the type of person that you'd want to have stranded with you on a deserted island. I thought that it was incredible that Sheshuoff and his future-wife, were able to get their friends to travel to a remote island to spend several months building a house for no pay. This accomplishment probably speaks as much to Sheshuoff's enthusiasm, as it does to the naiveté of the group, as it was definitely harder going than they had initially thought. Sheshuoff dispenses plenty of hard-earned wisdom and advice for other would-be paradise seekers.
If you're a huge Survivor fan, like me, then you will get a kick out of his annoyances with the production during his time in Palau. He also gives a bit of insight to the remoteness of the filming locations.
DISLIKE - I wish that the book had included pictures. There is a website that is given for additional content, like pictures, but admittedly, the book wasn't compelling enough for me to spend additional time looking at the web content. If it had been included, I would have enjoyed them, especially a picture of the baby monkey!
I also would have liked a little more on their life post-island. The ending felt rushed, with them leaving after finishing this great task of building the house. The climax was strong, but the ending was a dud.
RECOMMEND - Do you want to run off to paradise? Yes? Who doesn't, right? Well, A Beginner's Guide to Paradise is the memoir for you. Sheshunoff's memoir was fun, light-hearted and a pleasure to read. Unless you're a real grump or hate islands, I recommend Sheshunoff's memoir.