Book Review: “Trials and Temptations” by Cassie Bryant

categories: africa travel

I received “Trials and Temptations” by Cassie Bryant with great anticipation as Africa is a country I’ve wanted to visit.  I turned on Ladysmith Black Mambazo (correct continent but not the right country) brewed some tea and kerplunked into a comfy chair for a few hours.  What a delightful read!  I breezed through Cassie Bryant’s creatively descriptive “Trials and Temptations” memoir speckled with British terms of her experiences in the early 1980’s as a 25 year old trying something new and out of her comfort zone.   Her stories were  brief teasers of her Gambian volunteer involvement; the people she taught, the meals she enjoyed, the landscape, run ins with the native baboon named Bubber, adventures traveling throughout the country, primitive hygienic stations, naming ceremonies called ngente and her day to day challenges being “an accepted curiosity” by the community.

Her hijinks and antics while volunteering with the British charity, VSO-Volunteer Services Oversees, similar to the Peace Corps, seemed to be familiar stories I’ve heard before from other volunteers with various organizations.  Reading her personalized tales, I often felt as if she was in the next chair spilling her secrets and memories while drinking Julbrew, a Gambian brewed beer.   Who would have thought that she would be water skiing with an American Foreign officer whose friend owns a Lebanese car dealership, befriend British flight attendants from the newly formed European tour travel in Africa (that had all the latest technological gadgets like a Walkman) or that her trash of deodorant cans and toilet paper tubes would be repurposed as toys for the local children?

This remembrance included her personal relationships with her adult friends, local lovers and expatriates.  She shared conversations she had with her co-workers, Sisters and friends about her concerns of her successes teaching English to the women in the community.  She did not realize the extent of her achievements until she was leaving and talking with a friend. She accepted that she had helped her students reach and obtain their goals.  Furthermore, her friend comforted her by informing her that some of her students had recently been hired at the American embassy.

This book was appropriately titled as it truly was a memoir consisting of trials and temptations while living abroad.  Occasionally, I felt like I was a daughter reading her mom’s journal when she was my age.  If so, I think I’d be slightly abashed.  (The feeling may be a result of the book being dedicated to her daughter.)  It was well written and concise.   There was a good balance of work, play and day to day stories.  Though her experiences were different than what I expected, they are her history that she encountered. I would recommend this book to someone who is thinking of volunteering, trying to find their spot in the world or for someone who is looking to be transported to a different locale for a few hours.

 Disclaimer:  A free copy of this book was given to the reviewer with an expectation that a fair and honest review would be written of it.
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Jill Otradovec

by Jill Otradovec

Jill thrives on travel has been fortunate to be a road tripper and train traveler. She’s visited all 48 contiguous U.S. States with the impressive assistance of sofas and floors belonging to friends and family and a fantastic mechanic. Though her current passport has one stamp and a pathetic layer of dust, she is a card holder of the Smithsonian Institution and National Park Service (which have been used this year).

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