ForeWord Review

ForeWord Reviews

A ForeWord Magazine Review by Christine Canfield

In April of 1967, when the Summer of Love was dawning in San Francisco, Bill and JoAnne Raney left with their dachshund, Tarzan, and ten-month-old son, Eric Xerxes.  They flew to Germany, bought a VW camper van, and spent the next thirteen months traveling through Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.  Saddened that young Zerky would not remember this amazing trip, Bill began to write him letters and JoAnne kept a diary so that when he was older he could read about all the adventures he had been on.

Forty years after returning home from this trip, Bill found the letters and his late wife’s diary along with photographs taken during their travels.  Both JoAnne and Zerky had tragically passed away within a couple of years of returning home, and Bill published these documents as a memorial to them. The letters and diary entries introduce readers to a brave and adventurous JoAnne who had previously lived in Paris and hitchhiked around Yugoslavia during the Hungarian Uprising of 1956 and a blonde little Zerky who charmed everyone he encountered.

Bill’s letters transcend the average catalogue of events; he is a masterful storyteller who uses foreshadowing, personal and social insight, and beautiful description to weave a tale that keeps readers turning the pages for more. The history of this small family is interwoven with the histories of the countries they visit, providing a glimpse into the world as it once was. There is honesty in these letters, showing not only the highs of the trip, but also the lows and the parenting mistakes, such as the time they freely handed Zerky over to a mysterious tribesman in Iran for a horseback ride, only to watch horror-struck as the man in flowing white robes galloped away on his jet black horse with their baby boy. Luckily, the man returned Zerky after a thrilling ride in the Great Sand Desert.

The Raneys’ journey took them through Europe, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Thailand, Hong Kong, and a few countries that no longer exist.  The book will appeal to a wide audience, including those interested in travel, Middle Eastern history and simply a well-written story of adventure. It is a lovely tribute to a little boy who crossed cultural divides to bring people together. “Zerky was the common denominator that brought us together with the peoples and cultures of the world during this thirteen-month-long adventure between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans,” Bill writes. He was our passport to the world.  (November, 2009) –Christine Canfield

Review Date: July, 2010