5 Literary Alternatives to the Baboon Apocalypse by Amanda Heger
When an exotic vacation proved to be a bit too adventurous for author Amanda Heger, she decided she’d rather be an armchair traveler with these five reads.
The signs were everywhere. In the parking lot. The lobby. The dining room. In front of the vending machines. Even our bathroom.
PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE BABOONS.
The hotel had essentially prepared me for the baboon apocalypse.
But when I walked the hotel grounds my first night at Akagera National Park in Rwanda, I didn’t see a single baboon. The closest thing I saw was a drunk British man who kept smirking and inviting me into the “hot tub.” (Which, I’m pretty sure, was actually the kiddie pool.)
The next morning, I stood in the hotel parking lot digging through my camera bag. Birds chirped all around me, and the sun was still climbing into the pink morning sky. Dew clung to the grass, and fog hugged the mountains. Everything was beautiful and peaceful and grand.
Until I saw the baboons. Dozens of them, silently creeping closer. Soon there were baboons on top of cars. Baboons wandering around the hotel pool. Baboons watching me curiously from just ten feet away.
The baboon apocalypse was real, and I was going to be its first victim.
In that moment—before the security guard with the giant tree branch arrived and scared them off—I wished I’d curled up with a good book that could take me someplace far away, instead of actually going someplace far away. And if I had opted to travel someplace exciting via the page, here are five books I’d choose to take me there:
The Congo: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (literary fiction)
This beautiful, heartbreaking story of American missionaries is set against the Congo’s fight for independence from Belgium. It takes you deep into the minds and hearts of the women in the family, each with their own story to tell. But woven throughout is the undeniable presence of the Congo, with its guava trees, colorful markets, and lashing thunderstorms. And also with the undeniable deep, searing pain of colonialism. I read this book for the first time in college and skipped classes for two days, flying through the pages until I arrived at the quietly stunning end.
Thisby: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (magical realism)
Maybe you can’t find the tiny, fictional island of Thisby—where magical killer horses regularly emerge from the sea—on a map. Maybe you’ll never sit on the sidelines and watch as Sean and Puck—the main characters in this young adult novel—race along the beach atop the fierce capaill uisce, each desperate for something only one of them can have. But I dare you to read this book and tell me that Thisby doesn’t feel 100% real. From the tastes and sounds and smells of the island, Stiefvater brings it all to life in a gorgeous tale that will leave you ready to pack up your bags and visit the island. Even if there’s a good chance you’ll be mauled by a vicious water horse upon arrival.
The United States: America’s Boy by Wade Rouse (memoir)
Perhaps you aren’t looking for a vacation across the sea. You may simply want to explore America’s heartland with a poignant, witty, and genuinely lovely young boy as your guide. If so, take a trip into the Ozarks with Wade Rouse’s America’s Boy. There you’ll meet loving-but-eccentric parents, quirky townspeople, and even “goat ropers.” You’ll also fall in love with this story about learning to love yourself, even if it means you’ll never fit in.
Australia: Upside Down by Lia Riley (romance)
College student Talia signs up to study abroad in Australia, expecting a carefree trip that will take her far from the grief haunting her back home. But when she meets Bran, a broody Australian surfer, things become anything but carefree. Soon, the two are fighting for their relationship against the ticking clock of Talia’s time in Australia. Lia Riley has a way of combining laugh-out-loud moments, heart-wrenching conflicts, and super sexy encounters that make you feel like you’re on the beach, hair whipping in the wind and salt stinging your eyes, as you beg for Bran to kiss Talia.
China: The Obsession Saga by Liliana Lee (erotica)
Set in imperial China, this story was inspired by the real life Princess Shanyin, who—legend has it—commissioned a special bed to allow all 30 of her male concubines to pleasure her at once. I’m not sure there’s anything more you could ask for in a story, but this collection of serials delivers it anyway. Award-winning, bestselling author Jeannie Lin, writing under her alter ego Liliana Lee, brings the setting and characters to life with her signature beautiful prose, layered characters, and exquisite details. Also, did I mention the 30 male concubines?
Amanda Heger is a writer, attorney, and bookworm. She lives in the Midwest with three unruly rescue dogs and a husband who encourages her delusions of grandeur. Her debut romance, Without Borders, was inspired by the summer Amanda spent in rural Nicaragua, eating gallo pinto, speaking mangled Spanish, and showing high school students how to slide condoms onto over-sized plantains. Learn more and order your copy here.
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