OUTSIDE OF ORDINARY: WOMEN'S TRAVEL STORIES edited by Lynn Cecil and Catherine Bancroft (Second Story), 268 pages, $19.95 paper. Rating: NNN
The best travel stories describe adventures that kick-start a change in the writers. And Outside Of Ordinary has lots of them. Editors Lynn Cecil and Catherine Bancroft have corralled writers from all over Canada to tell their stories, which are not about predictable destinations. The cover may sport the image of a woman carrying a suitcase with an "I Love Paris" sticker on it, but there's no story set there. These writers go to arts conferences in Guatemala, teach English in Taiwan, drive for hours through the Yukon, cross the United States by bicycle. Tourist traps do not figure prominently here.
Certain themes weave through the book. Most of the writers are on some kind of mid-life spiritual quest. Others, like Anne M. Sasso, wrestle with whether they're allies or colonizers of the people they meet in poorer countries. Some are searching for their roots or, like Christina Owens in From Thailand To Japan, one of the better contributions, discover something new about a long-term relationship.
Playing off ocean myths, Jody Wood's compelling tale, Lautan, describes an encounter with a curiously charismatic character, but don't look for too much sex here or anywhere else in the book. Only Sharon Butala's Claudio probes the sensations of getting turned on by somebody who doesn't speak her language.
Both these stories jump right off the page because they bring their characters to life.
Outside Of Ordinary isn't a major literary event. Except for Wood, who's a first-time writer (and you'd never know it), the best stories are by writers whose reputations precede them: Butala, Alison Pick, Lorna Crozier. But you could dip into this anthology anywhere and find something interesting.
An excellent gift for the experienced feminist in your life.