There Are Still Unknown Places
by Ron Morris
Genre: General Fiction / Travel
Print Length: 338 pages
Reviewed by Akram Herrak
An eye-opening story of living in a foreign country when hopes and ideas clash with the local culture
There are still unknown places, indeed. Ron Morris’s novel is full of discovery and new sensations; it feels unfamiliar, yet the feeling of alienation and search for the familiar, usually associated with leaving home, is strongly present.
Through the eyes of its handful of characters, we experience Thailand and more specifically, Bangkok, with everything the city has to offer. There Are Still Unknown Places lives up to its title and presents Bangkok to the reader on a silver plate, a culture so different from its characters, yet made digestible through captivating mystery storytelling.
The story opens with John, a stranger to Thailand, meeting with a local girl by the name of Porn. She offers to set him up with a job at her working place, which happens to be an English teaching center that is always on the look-out for foreigners to join the teaching staff.
Upon accepting her offer, John finds himself with a handful of other foreigners, each of them in Thailand for a different reason. Whether it’s escape, search for love, search for riches or any other reason, they’re all strangers and all looking for something. We follow their separate stories that continuously intertwine as each character discovers this strange land in their own way.
While all the characters are very interesting in their own ways, and their interactions even more so, their ordinary tales and aspirations are made fantastic through the setting they are revealed in. It’s not uncommon to be searching for money or for love, but set in a city unknown to them like Bangkok, those dreams become quite fascinating. The city feels as alive as any of the other characters: special attention is given to detail and to bringing an entire culture to life, the beautiful sides of it as well as the unusual according to Western standards, resulting in a menacing presence that constantly clashes with the characters it hosts.
Very rarely do the separate stories feel overwhelming or hard to follow as they entwine; they are so different yet so similar, ending up painting a big image of Western vs. Eastern thought. The contrast between the two is what captivated me most, observing different ways of thinking, different approaches to conflict, and more importantly, radically different aspirations.
There are a lot of books that emulate the feeling of traveling to a new place; that is even thought of as a condition of success for stories, yet there are very few books that feel like completely living somewhere else. It is a deeply captivating and enriching sensation, and it makes There Are Still Unknown Places all the more special.
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