Book Review: Lands of Lost Borders
Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road by Kate Harris
Dey Street Books, $24.99
Warning: serious fan-girling ahead.
The coolest thing about Kate Harris isn’t that she was at M.I.T. studying Mars in order to go to Mars. The coolest thing about her isn’t that she had the bravery to leave her impressive program at M.I.T. because she realized it wasn’t what she wanted. The coolest thing isn’t that she and her best friend biked the Silk Road.
The coolest thing is that she did all of that, and she’s written a book about it. LANDS OF LOST BORDERS seamlessly weaves natural history, history, geography, politics, and adventure, and that’s just a few of the broad strokes. Like Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, Harris’s prose meanders with purpose. Any chapter covers a multitude of topics: the ever present Marco Polo (part of her inspiration for the ride), her own shifting borders of personal expectations, ecotourism, war, and, depending on which country they’re cycling through, any variety of local policemen questioning them as to why they would do this. This is just a very microscopic sampling of the topics she explores. And, like Sebald, you’ve ended up in an entirely different place from where you started and you have no idea how you got there but every step was marvelous and engaging and you can’t wait to see where she takes you next.
This works because, of course, the meandering is intentional and is extremely well plotted, and it is Harris’s skill as a writer that make those connecting points so invisible.
Fans of W.G. Sebold, Rachel Cusk, Robert Macfarlane, and Cheryl Strayed are going to love Kate Harris. Part nature, part travelogue, part adventure, and part history, LANDS OF LOST BORDERS is brilliantly woven together with Kate Harris’s expertly rendered prose.
Intern Brontë gives LANDS OF LOST BORDERS four out of four paws (plus a tail wag).