The Book of Life
Author: Andrew Jackson
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicholson
Release Date: October 01, 1999
Andrew Jackson quit his high-powered job in advertising to travel the world with his wife Vanella. Their quest was to meet the oldest people alive and imbibe some of their knowledge. With Jackson, we discover the stories of nonagenarians and centenarians in Slovakia, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Zanzibar, Zimbabwe, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, America, Ecuador and Bolivia. The two-year-long journey ends in drama: in the most moving passage of the book, Vanella hovers between life and death in Caracas, at the end of their trip.
This is not a book of exploration in the conventional sense. Jackson and his wife do not scale mountains or penetrate jungles. Rather, in their meetings with the aged, they explore the changing world and the peaceful demeanour which has helped these survivors to live into their dotage. In the stories of the Navajo medicine men, Indian cricketers and Balinese priests, we are reminded of the dangers of population growth and environmental decay and hear of the wholesale changes in values and morals. Jackson is not a particularly evocative writer, but the message of the book is an important one. Says one man in Pakistan: "These days, everyone is interested in his own. In the past we all used to eat from the same plate. Now, each has his own plate." --Toby Green