When author Daniel Glick lost his wife to another woman and his brother to cancer in the span of a single year he could've easily tripped into a downward spiral of sadness and despair. Instead, he packed his traveling bags, swallowed his fear and took his kids (Kolya, 13 and Zoe, 9) on a whirlwind trip around the world. Part memoir, part travelogue and part environmental harangue "Monkey Dancing" chronicles the experiences of this brave but vulnerable clan as they embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
A journalist by trade, Glick is a veteran traveler. He sets an ambitious itinerary combining writing assignments with educational outings for the kids. Starting with the Great Barrier Reef in Australia - moving onto the Orangutan Care Center in Borneo and Chitwan Park in Nepal - the family's travel schedule reads like a top-ten list of sensitive ecosystems. Glick's goals for the trip are three fold:
"Before they're gone" became my mantra for this trip - with a triple entendre. The first, literal meaning directed me to show Kolya and Zoe this planet's amazing animals and environments before overpopulation, poverty, global climate change, pollution and development maimed or destroyed themů The trip's second goal instructed me to seize this otherwise inglorious personal transition and use it to spend time with my children before they left my reconfigured single father's nestů I wanted to get to know them; I wanted them to get to know me. I wanted to forge a new family of three using adventure as our crucible. Lastly the big "before they're gone" loomed especially large after witnessing my brother's untimely death at forty-eight, I knew viscerally that I possessed no guarantees regarding how long any of us would be aroundů
A five-month trip around the world is no easy feat - especially if one is the single father of two animated kids traveling in a wake of confusion and grief. In "Monkey Dancing" Glick balances his own observations with entries from Kolya and Zoe's diaries. He includes recollections from his youth, traveling in Africa with his brother Bob. The result is an epic story about family; husbands and wives; parents and children. Most of all it's a story about the special bond between siblings. A bond that can be forgotten and then rememberedů just in time.
Glick's writing is intimate and supremely self-aware. (He writes with a baby-boomer's love of self-analysis.) But just when you feel he's shared too much, he backtracks and jokes at his own expense - an endearing quality that saves this book from becoming pompous. Although the author is certain to receive criticism of his parenting techniques I found his openness refreshing. It's rare to read a story told with so much heart. "Monkey Dancing" stands tall and hopeful in our era of suspicion and fear. Highly recommended for adventurers and family folks alike