Monday, January 21, 2008

A Broad Abroad in Thailand by Dodi Cross

ISBN: 9781419672354 - Four Ways West/Cross Publications (2007)
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (12/07)

"A Broad Abroad in Thailand" promised to be a book that I could relate to in several ways. Being an expat myself, I always find what other expats have to say about their new countries fascinating; I've always considered myself a broad and I absolutely adore Thailand. So at a first glance I found it hard to imagine that the book could live up to my expectations…

Having read a fair number of books about expat life and experiences, I mostly found them quite imbalanced and superficial. Granted, most of the authors were rather young, but in the majority of cases I was just not overly impressed by them. Dodie Cross' "A Broad Abroad in Thailand" is definitely an exception. The author never tries to hide the fact that she was no spring chicken when she headed to the Land of Smiles, which certainly gives an interesting spin to her observations. We get to learn more about orphanages and healthcare than we do about beach parties and bars, which in my opinion is a nice improvement. Ms. Cross also nicely balances the funny-to-hilarious misadventures with more serious issues and her 'who-could-ever-understand-those-habits' moments with her obvious admiration and respect of Thailand, its culture and its people.

Ms. Cross' memoir begins with a hasty marriage to a golf instructor, which is needed in order for her to be able to accompany him to his new position in Thailand. Although she is not totally certain that marrying Dick (and oh, what an appropriate name for him!) is such a great idea, she decides to go forward with it. Their move to a new country is very eventful – as those moves tend to be… Very soon she is battling not only a badly cracking marriage to a sex addict, but also countless rules and regulations imposed by the wife of Dick's boss, the overpowering Ms. Anorexia. Ms. Cross would rather get to know her new country and meet the people, but all such attempts are considered by Ms. Anorexia as against the rules. Then along comes the near-fatal accident on the infamous Sukhumvit Highway – which truly is at least as bad as described by Ms. Cross as well as a bladder surgery with unexpected results. Dick is not thrilled by Dodie's restored virginity, the boss is not thrilled by Dick and Ms. Anorexia is just generally not thrilled with anything, particularly not with Dodie. Such is the sorry state of affairs overall, which will only lead to more trouble. You will, however, have to read the book for yourself to learn how Dodie resolves the situation.

Having seen that Ms. Cross has also lived in New Orleans among other places, I will definitely keep an eye out for a book about those experiences. According to the little addendum, she is already working on one about her life in Iran, so I can only hope that the New Orleans one will be next. As for "A Broad Abroad in Thailand," I found it well written and very enjoyable. If you need something to brighten your day, just read one of the funnier chapters, maybe the one about mastering the use of Thai toilets or the joys of buying underwear in a strange country. You will feel so grateful that you do not have to deal with any of this that your day will immediately improve. Great read for expats, expats-to-be, wanna-be- expats, travelers and just about anybody else with a sense of humor.

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