VISIT SUNNY CHERNOBYL: Vivid, entertaining, witty
Visit Sunny Chernobyl, by Andrew Blackwell/320 pages/Rodale Books, 2013
Visit Sunny Chernobyl isn’t what I expected. This vividly-written, highly entertaining, and occasionally witty narrative is not a rant about the dirtiest places in our world and how we’ve destroyed (or are destroying) our environment, but rather an exploration of the dirtiest places of our world and what it’s like to be there, live there, and breathe there. This isn’t a book that passes judgment; this is a book that lets you see things through Blackwell’s eyes and make up your own mind.
For those of us who like to armchair travel, Visit Sunny Chernobyl delivers in spades; the vivid language and use of the five senses is nothing short of amazing and the colorful characters he meets along the way leap off the page.
Some of the more technical aspects of the story—how a nuclear reactor works, what oil sands are, how plastics break down—are described succinctly, in layman’s terms, and appear organically; it’s so entertainingly presented, in fact, that it feels like you’ve actually learned something with no effort at all.
The best part of Visit Sunny Chernobyl, though, is the dry humor that emerges from Blackwell’s spot-on observations; I didn’t expect to be laughing, and while I’d like to share some of my favorite lines here, they really need to be taken within context.
The second half of the book, I think, is a bit stronger than the first; there is a more personal tone to Blackwell’s narrative and the humor is a bit more biting. This is probably because at the time he was writing those chapters he’d just faced a heartbreak, and he’s trying to find himself and purpose in life again even as he’s trying to finish the project. This struggle, though only glimpsed, adds a richness to the narrative—and because of it, this grand tour of places most of us will never go yields a most surprising discovery: “The task now, perhaps, is not to preserve the fantasy of a separate and pure nature, but to see how thoroughly we are part of the new nature that still lives. Only then can we preserve it, and us.” (Page 173).
If you like creative nonfiction/memoir, this is a great read.
Posted on February 8, 2016, in Reviews and tagged Andrew Blackwell, ecotourism, Fort McMurray, Port Arthur, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, Travel memoir, Visit Sunny Chernobyl, Yamuna River. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.