Married to Bhutan was one of those books.
Every October, I attend the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville, Tennessee. This past fall, author River Jordan was speaking on a panel about faith, which I was dying to attend. I had read -- and adored (read my review here) -- her nonfiction memoir-of-sorts, Praying for Strangers, so it was a no-brainer for me to attend her session at the Festival. Also on the panel with Jordan was author and missionary Katie Davis, and joining them was Linda Leaming.
The connection between these three women was at first difficult to understand. Jordan wrote a book about praying for people. Davis does mission work in Uganda, Africa, and is foster mother to thirteen orphaned and abandoned girls. Leaming wrote a book about uprooting her Nashville life and moving halfway across the world to Bhutan.
As Leaming spoke, her love for Bhutan was evident in both her words and in the way her eyes lit up as she spoke about the country. She rambled a bit, like a schoolgirl in love -- and that's a spot-on comparison. Leaming flew to Bhutan on a stopover from India during a world-wide trip whose other stops included Italy and France. But the streets of these beautiful countries couldn't hold a candle to the flame she was carrying for Bhutan's mountains and rivers.
She eventually made Bhutan her home, and Married to Bhutan is her love letter to that Himalayan country. In this memoir, Leaming details her life teaching English in a Bhutanese school, learnng to wear a kira, and struggling to communicate in a difficult and unknown-to-her language.
After reading Married in Bhutan I (sort of) want to visit the country, and I definitely understand Leaming's inclusion in the panel on faith. Although hers is not a novel of religion, it is a novel about finding your way spiritually. In Bhutan, Leaming has found a place where her spirit is at home, even though she may not believe in the Buddhist teachings her husband and his countrymen follow. She is at rest there, and often faith is just that -- finding a place of comfort in which to just be.
You can follow Linda Leaming on Twitter or on her blog, Married to Bhutan. She is currently at work on a second book. (And although this is mentioned exactly nowhere above, Leaming is quite funny. Her tongue-in-cheek sense of humor pops up throughout the book as a nice respite from the often-serious manner in which she describes her new homeland. It's a perfectly balanced book! Also, I read this on my new Kindle Touch, and the e-book is on sale at Amazon right now for $1.79. So you must snap it up.)