Glimpses through the Forest: Memories of Gabon
In the early two-thousands, Jason Gray spent three years in the African coastal nation of Gabon. The first two he served as a volunteer in the Peace Corps, and, for the third, Gray worked to further the conservation efforts that he began during his voluntary service. Here, Gray offers a beautiful story of his time there.
His tale is not told linearly; instead, he gives the reader, as he says, glimpses of this fascinating country. One chapter is about his first encounter with a forest elephant. Another describes the feeling in the air and in the soul when it rains. This is the perfect way to introduce the reader to Gabon. It enlivens the text so that, instead of one man’s adventure, it becomes a wonderful tapestry wherein all the delicate details that make up the place can come together to give a complete picture. It also lends the book the feeling of memory. This allows Gray’s stories to sink into you. When you finish the book, it feels like you were there with him. You can feel the fear of discovering a hippopotamus right behind you and see the colorful leaves of the forest. This is a completely transporting book.
Gray’s language certainly contributes to the magic of his stories. You can feel his love for the land, for the people he met, and for the things he experienced. It pours forth from every page in the form of slow, loving descriptions. He describes even the most nightmare-inducing scenarios with a cheerful reverence. One chapter details his hours-long fight against a swarm of biting ants as they try to take over his house, coming in armies massive enough to cover the walls. Still, there is not a trace of complaint. His optimism and caring are contagious, and this book is enough to make me (almost) want to jump on a plane right now.
Glimpses through the Forest is a rare book, one that takes you from your comfortable couch and brings you full-on into a country where the power shuts off every time it rains and a simple hike can leave you in chest-deep water with crocodiles. Most impressively, not a single moment of this trip is unpleasant. It is all beautiful, rich, and alive. Gray does a fantastic job sharing his love and respect for Gabon and for all the people he met there.
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