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"The mountain path is the road of the dead," writes Thubron (Shadow of the Silk Road) in this engrossing and affecting travel memoir that transcends the mere physical journey. In the wake of his mother's death, Thubron sets off to Mount Kailas in Tibet, a peak sacred to one-fifth of the world's population and the source of four of India's great rivers. Kailas has never been climbed: the slopes are important to Tibetan Buddhists who say the mountain's guardian is Demchog (a tantric variant of Shiva). Along with two guides, Thubron embarks on a pilgrimage that begins in Nepal and crosses into Tibet, recounting not only his arduous journey but also the political and cultural history of Tibet and the West's continued fascination with its mysticism. Along the way, he observes pilgrims of various religions converging on Kailas and the myriad monasteries, most of which were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and rebuilt decades later. It is the poignant evocations of his mother and sister (who died at 21), interwoven with his profound respect for the Tibetan culture and landscape that make Thubron's memoir an utterly moving read. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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Best-selling author Thubron's approach to this book differs slightly from that of his other work (e.g., Shadow of the Silk Road). His mother, last of the family, passed away as he began this extraordinary journey. Mount Kailash, a mountain sacred to Buddhists and Hindus, has never been climbed, only circumambulated. It is similar to the Ganges or Mecca-followers want to visit or be buried there. Thubron quotes monks, pilgrims, porters, guides, and fellow travelers to enliven his work. He vividly describes the physical world he treks-e.g., he writes, "yaks have shabby petticoats and their tread is slow, almost delicate." More moving are his profiles of people who make the journey in thin shoes and flimsy clothing. They are joyous despite suffering, loss, and the dislocation of everything they value. Verdict Thubron's own journey of grief and his search for understanding heightens his experience and augments his descriptions of believers he observes. This personal narrative will enrich readers interested in memoir, travel, and Tibet. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/10.]-Susan Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
*Starred Review* Kailas is a sacred, snow-capped mountain of the Himalayas in a remote area of western Tibet. There have been no recorded attempts to climb it, in deference to Buddhist, Hindu, Bön, and Jainist beliefs. Award-winning British travel writer and novelist Thubron (Shadow of the Silk Road, 2007) traveled along the Karnali River (a tributary of the Ganges) by foot with only a guide, a cook, and a horse man on a long and often treacherous trek to visit this mystical peak, considered holy by one-fifth of humankind. The journey is the reward, for both writer and reader, in this rich, beautiful account of the landscape, people, culture, and politics of Tibet. Much more than a travel guide or history lesson, this engrossing and gorgeously written book is also a stirring memoir tinged with the author's own grief, reflecting on the joys and losses he's experienced. Thubron is the steward of his father's legacy and keeper of his mother's memories, sharing familial recollections on a pilgrimage toward one of nature's precious jewels, and his own parentless future.--Keech, Chris Copyright 2010 Booklist