Just one month after his 21st birthday, Peter Rudiak-Gould moved to Ujae, a remote atoll in the Marshall Islands located 70 miles from the nearest telephone, car, store, or tourist, and 2,000 miles from the closest continent. He spent the next year there, living among its 450 inhabitants and teaching English to its schoolchildren.
At first blush, Surviving Paradise is a thoughtful and laugh-out-loud hilarious documentation of Rudiak-Gould’s efforts to cope with daily life on Ujae as his idealistic expectations of a tropical paradise confront harsh reality. But Rudiak-Gould goes beyond the personal, interweaving his own story with fascinating political, linguistic, and ecological digressions about the Marshall Islands. Most poignant are his observations of the noticeable effect of global warming on these tiny, low-lying islands and the threat rising water levels pose to their already precarious existence.
An Eat, Pray, Love as written by Paul Theroux, Surviving Paradise is a disarmingly lighthearted narrative with a substantive emotional undercurrent.
“Utterly unexpected, vivid, and blessedly funny.”—Ernest Callenbach, author of the bestselling Ecotopia and Publisher’s Lunch
“Alternatively hilarious, emotional and thought provoking...the book is an eye-opening look into a beautiful yet harsh paradise far from the reaches of tourism."—Publishers Weekly
“This entertaining memoir reads like a novel....The perfect book for readers of fish-out-of-water travel memoirs.”—Booklist
“Peter Rudiak-Gould transcends and defies every travel-memoir cliché (i.e. ‘I went there to save them, but it was they who saved me’), reinventing the notion of what travel writing can accomplish. From his rollicking adventures in spear fishing to his efforts to master the Marshallese language, Rudiak-Gould has written a dynamic narrative of personal and global transformation that's a joy from departure to arrival.”—Liza Monroy, author of Mexican High
“There's magic at work here. Not until late in the book—after he has seduced you with his humor, poetic prose, and elegant observations about life on a drowning tropical island—do you realize that the window Rudiak-Gould has been holding open and allowing you to peek through is not actually a window, but a brilliantly-disguised mirror.”—Brad Newsham, author of Take Me With You: A Round-the-World Journey to Invite a Stranger Home
“In Surviving Paradise, Peter Rudiak-Gould has pulled off the improbable: turning a year spent on a remote Pacific island the size of a shopping mall into a memorable, moving narrative.”—Tony Cohan, author of On Mexican Time and Mexican Days
“With an eye for humor that is fresh and surprising, Peter Rudiak-Gould lays out the delightful ironies—and the vexing conundrums—of life in a traditional culture on the brink of change. His tales from the edge of the world are at times deeply moving, quite often stunningly insightful, and consistently hilarious. I found myself grinning by page two.” —Sarah Erdman, author of Nine Hills to Nambonkaha: Two Years in the Heart of an African Village
“At once a travel narrative, a personal memoir, and an anthropological excursion, Surviving Paradise is also an utterly charming, often very funny account of a young man's surreal immersion in a relatively traditional Pacific culture. I recommend it heartily!”—Lawrence Millman, author of Last Places: A Journey in the North
“Surprising and funny. A gentle, witty reminder that we live on an entirely unpredictable planet.”—Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic and Desire
“Peter Rudiak-Gould went looking for the biggest adventure in the most faraway place he could imagine. His boyish enchantment with mystery itself matured into a thoughtful appreciation of the people he came to know on a primitive island. The resulting memoir is sensitive, funny and true.”—Sharon Dirlam, author of Beyond Siberia: Two Years in a Forgotten Place