Reviewed by Paul Lappen
American David Thompson is a Vietnam War conscientious objector. After spending a year in military prison, during which time he became estranged from his family, he travels around Europe, not really sure where he's going or what he's doing. In Paris, he meets a man named Hasan, who encourages David to accompany him back to Iran, his homeland. David is assured that plenty of jobs for foreigners are available. Their paths diverge for a while, and they meet up again a few weeks later, and undertake a harrowing journey to Iran by way of southeast Europe and Turkey.
The mountains of southeast Turkey are full of the sort of people who shoot first and don't bother with asking questions later. The two pass many disabled vehicles along the way, but don't even think of stopping; the philosophy is ""every man for himself."" They eventually reach Teheran, the Iranian capital. It's a dirty, noisy, congested place, like a city that's grown up too quickly. They continue to Mashad, Hasan's hometown, a much cleaner and nicer place.
David is invited to a meeting of an informal group of young people to discuss political philosophy; they have heard about his political rebellion. It's during the reign of the Shah, whose secret police, the SAVAK, are everywhere, so many precautions are needed. A few days later, the leaders of the group are arrested, and David is told to leave Iran immediately. He continues on to Afghanistan.
While there, he meets some Westerners who are more interested in drugs than in getting a different perspective of the world around them. He is told that he must continue on to India, to experience it first hand. Emotionally, it will hit him harder than anything in his life, but it's something he must do. Throughout his whole trip, and expecially in India, he experiences great kindness from total strangers. He also witnesses poverty and misery on a scale inconceivable to the average American.
This book is short, but it works on several levels. It's a good travel story, it's a good political and personal philosophy story, and it's a fine tale of an average person looking for his place in the world. It's well worth reading.