When I began reading the memoir by Jacqueline Lenox Tuxill, entitled Whispers from the Valley of the Yak, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. I knew it was the tale of a journey, a discovery of self and life and home and person-hood, but I didn’t expect what I read.
In some ways, like nearly every memoir, the book was predictable. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. A conclusion which leaves the reader with a sense of joy or contentment or closure. In this case, though, there were several and they were revealing of the author, certainly, and the reader.
The story tells of a woman finding herself through the return to her birthplace. I’m not sure what I expected but opening as an MK returning to China in 1980 surprised me. Especially as I “got to know” her mother, one of the missionaries of focus. Speaking as a former and waiting missionary myself, I’m always surprised when harsh people answer that call.
Jackie, as she goes by in the book, is searching through her past to find her present, to find forgiveness for others, to find hope and a sense of home. As she journeyed through the true-life tales, I journeyed along in the book. I can’t say I share her journey, but I was pulled along with my own memories of other countries, other worlds from my own travels and life outside the United States.
Some moments, Whispers from the Valley of the Yak is hard reading. The emotions that hit at certain times challenge you. You want to change things and make things better or stop others from happening. I found myself emotionally confused at times, because, well, humans are strange beings that don’t always behave in their own self-interest, let alone in the best interests of others.
Those challenging moments are where the growth occurs, though, both in the book and for the person reading it. The vivid descriptions, well-written and colorful, plunk you down into the settings where the moments are so real you can’t deny the emotions and the needs. If you let it, the book can lead you through your own discovery of self and family, and home.
It’s not an easy read if you’re sensitive like myself, but it’s a good one. You may just find part of your own story in Jackie’s. You may find spaces for forgiveness or hope or love for someone who isn’t pleasant to be around or hasn’t treated you well. I highly recommend this well-written memoir filled with strange moments and hurts but more, with hope.
Need more great reads? Check out other memoirs and moving non-fiction reviews from the MockingOwl Roost staff.
- Ninety-Nine Fire Hoops
- Empire of Ice and Stone
- It Was a Good Plan…and Then the World Spun Upside Down
- My Grandmother’s Hands
- This Here Flesh
Editor-in-Chief of The MockingOwl Roost, Rita Mock-Pike is the granddaughter of aviatrix, Jerrie Mock, first woman to pilot an airplane solo around the world. Rita has found inspiration from her grandmother’s life and flight and pursued many of her own dreams in theatre, podcasting, novel writing, and cooking up delicious food from around the world. She now writes on food, travel, pets, faith, and the arts. She’s happily married to Matt, and faithfully serves the very fluffy kitten queen, Lady Stardust.