Synopses & Reviews
In 1989, Jamie Zeppa, a naïve, well-educated twenty-three-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie, commits to a two-year teaching contract in Bhutan against the wishes of both her fiancé, Robert, and her controlling grandfather. Following orientation here and in Bhutan, Jamie is unceremoniously dropped at a remote Bhutanese village to teach Grade Two. There, she battles fleas, landslides, rats, kerosene stoves, leeches, and illness, and believes she will not survive two weeks, let alone two years.
With help from her eight-year-old students, Jamie overcomes her culture shock and fear, makes some friends, and soon begins her love affair with Bhutan. She writes letters home full of wonder and discovery of the country, of herself, and of Buddhism.
As she spends more time in this strange and beautiful country, Jamie finds herself attracted to one of her college students, Tshewang, with whom she eventually has a child and marries.
Like Karen Connelly's Touch the Dragon, Beyond the Sky and the Earth is the compelling story of a Westerner trying to fit in to an alien culture, and trying to bridge cultural and political divides that may be insurmountable.
The doors of Paro airport are thrown open to the winds. The little building with its single stripe of tarmac is set in the middle of dun-coloured fields dotted with mounds of manure. The fields are carved into undulating terraces edged with sun-bleached grass; intricate footpaths lead to large houses, white with dark wooden trim. A young girl in an ankle-length orange and yellow dress, two horses, three cows, a crow in a leafless willow tree. An ice-blue river splashing over smooth white stones. A wooden cantilever bridge. Above the bridge, on a promontory, a massive fortress, its thick white walls tapering towards the top, a golden spire flashing on the dark red roof.
My bags are lying alone on the tarmac outside, beneath furiously snapping flags. I haul them in. I have arrived.
"Zeppa's book suggests what other contemporary travel books do not: that there are still a few places left in the world so strange and wondrous that a journey there has the power to transform the traveler, even against her will." New York Times Book Review
"[This] tale is part love story, part history lesson and part Buddhism 101....Zeppa writes romantically without romanticizing, and her fascinating story is something you'll marvel at the first time and want to go back to again and again." Mademoiselle
"Heartfelt...a good reminder that your passport, both literally and figuratively, can open up an entire world of possibilities." Harper's Bazaar
"A joy to read." Chicago Tribune
"An exotic feast of adventure, wry observation and moving romance. A lovely book." Peter Gzowski
"Beyond the Sky and the Earth is a joy, a gift. Jamie Zeppa has made of her journey to Bhutan another journey, this one for us: a book of poetic beauty and hard-won insight, which honors equally the realms of the mind, the spirit, and the heart. Read it." John Burnham Schwartz, author of Bicycle Days and Reservation Road
"I am almost afraid to talk about how much I loved this book. Praise Jamie Zeppa for putting language to a landscape that is beautiful beyond description. Praise her for her courage, honesty, and mindfulness in finding words for an experience that goes beyond words." Pam Houston, author of Cowboys Are My Weakness
"Reading the early pages of this rich, romantic, lushly descriptive memoir of Zeppa's three years in the tiny Buddhist kingdom just south of Tibet, I counted my cushy American blessings...But by the end, I not only got why Zeppa stayed in Bhutan... I actually envied her experience. Her tale is part love story, part history lesson and part Buddhism 101...Zeppa writes romantically without romanticizing, and her fascinating story is something you'll marvel at the first time and want to go back to again and again." --Mademoiselle
"Heartfelt...a good reminder that your passport, both literally and figuratively, can open up an entire world of possibilities." --Harper's Bazaar
"Zeppa's story sheds the customary contours of the year-abroad memoir and starts to become something more like a memoir of conversion, a testament of newfound faith." --The New York Times Book Review
"A joy to read." --Chicago Tribune
Zeppa recounts her three years spent in the tiny Buddhist kingdom of Bhutan, just south of Tibet, in this memoir that is part travel adventure, part Buddhist philosophy, and part "a testament of newfound faith" ("The New York Times Book Review").
Jamie Zeppa was 24 when she left a stagnant life at home and signed a contract to teach for two years in the Buddhist hermit kingdom of Bhutan. Much more than just a travel memoir, Beyond the Sky and the Earth is the story of her time in a Himalayan village, immersed in Bhutanese culture and the wonders of new and lasting love. Whether you're travelling to Bhutan, looking for the best travel writing around, or wishing to be transported to a culture, mindset, and spiritual ethos wonderfully different from your own, Beyond the Sky and the Earth is a joyous and lush memoir that will transform the way you think of faith, Western life, and love.
About the Author
Jamie Zeppa was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, in 1964. She lives in Toronto and Bhutan. Her first novel Every Time We Say Goodbye, was published in 2011.