You may never visit these places, but Tom Lutz will do it for you. And while global media may serve up a steady diet of division, violence, oppression, hatred, and strife, The Kindness of Strangers shows that people the world over are much more likely to meet strangers with interest, empathy, welcome, and compassion.
“Each step Tom takes in this compendium of world journeys is an enlightenment. We want to join Tom and sit at the precipice of a brave village in the Philippines. We want to feel the entanglement between China and Hong Kong as it is unraveled by the new generations. Somewhere as we go among peoples, the ones stripped of all resources, we notice, in the larger orb of power, the ‘loss of humanity.’ Yet, everywhere, how can it be possible, the gifts of kindness come to you, the heart-words and hope-painted bodies of the people. I love this book. I am astounded by Tom’s deep drive to care, how he sees without judgement, how he notices the tenderness still beaming in the eyes of the pushed out. I am mesmerized at how the word of the people is cradled in this tour de force.”—Juan Felipe Herrera, U.S. Poet Laureate Emeritus and author, Every Day We Get More Illegal
“Why should I go anywhere when I have Tom Lutz? The descriptions of these places—Nicaragua to the Phillipines to Bhutan and so on—the people who inhabit these places, the smells, the ticks, are so alive in these pages. But, of course, I am left wanting these places, these adventures, jealous of these experiences and even more envious of Lutz’s ability to render them so elegantly. This is a book that will at once leave you hungry and satisfied.”—Percival Everett, author, Telephone
Average rating from 2 members
Lutz travels all over the place, attempting to be that person who doesn't just go on organised tours or stay on the typical tourist paths - to experience, at least briefly and in a small way, the 'real' place he's visiting. He's self aware enough to know that he's always still an American tourist, but he does try to talk to people about themselves and their lives. Towards the end he confronts the issue of his privilege, pointing out that he still works while traveling and he chooses cheap fares and long stopovers so it’s not as expensive as it might be - but of course he is still privileged to be able to travel at all. At the start he argues about the idea of appropriation, and whether it's appropriate that he write about other cultures at all - which he is clearly fine with, given this is his third such book. This I am less convinced by, but only because I don’t think this is what is meant by appropriation. Anyway: overall this is a really enjoyable book. Not one to read in a single sitting necessarily becuase there’s no chronological or otherwise thematic order to the chapters. Each is about the author's visit to a different country - many, to my eyes, exotic for the difficulty of getting there or the unusualness of being there (… and then there’s NZ, which was quite funny really). The Marshal islands, Djibouti, Madagascar, Bhutan - Lutz describes, usually, his arrival and then his encounters with various people. Guides, sometimes drivers, restauranteurs, people at the bar; seems like he’ll talk to anyone, which of course gives rise to the title of the book. He isn’t claiming everywhere is perfect nor that everyone is a delight, including as he does a couple of near-muggings and being rorted occasionally too. But he is making the claim that at least for someone like him - male, white, middle class - travel without an organised tour and off the usual path can be enjoyable. Engagingly written, if you're content to read a vignette-style approach (which I am); usually thoughtful, and certainly engaged with places I haven't read much about.