Week 1: Undress me in the temple of heaven

Undress me in the temple of heaven, by Susan Jane Gilman
It's 1986, and Susie has just graduated from an Ivy college.  She and her friend Claire decide to packpack around the world, and just to show how tough they are, they are going to start in China.  Communist China in 1986, which has been open to travelers for "all of about ten minutes."
As they hit the road, their utter naïveté is stunning.  But since at 21 I would have been just the same, I really got into the story.  After a few weeks of the usual rough living, and a lot of adventure, Claire starts to fall apart.  It takes Susie a while to realize that what she sees as weird bratty melodrama is quickly becoming paranoid delusion, and meanwhile they've traveled deep into rural southwest China.  It's a bad place to lose your mind; the chances are that they will end up arrested by the military.
I was both enthralled by the story and scared to keep going.  And I really identified with the author.  So I really enjoyed this one.  A good start to my weekly book list!


  1. Interesting book to start off your new year. I read about this book last year and want to read. Will have to add it to my wishlist. :)

  2. What made you choose this book? How did you hear about it?

  3. I picked it up at the library--it was on the new bookshelf or something. I love travel books!

  4. I agree -- this was a stand-out book that I read in 2009. It wasn't necesarily the best book I read, but it stuck with me. I too related with the girls and marveled and their stupidity. I also thought that it was amazing that things were SO different in the time it was written from even 5 or 10 years ago -- no cell phones or internet, spotty long distance etc.

  5. Wow, it definitely sounds interesting. You've got me hooked already. LOL.

  6. I'm going to put it on my library hold list now. Sounds like the kind of book you plow through, needing to know what happens.


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