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16 July, 2007
Book Review: Sigourney's Quest by Gordon Snider
Read and reviewed for Front street Reviews, and as part of the Hidden Treasures contest.
Sigourney Phillips’ life has taken a turn for the worst. Her husband has left her for a younger woman. Her fifteen year old daughter, Debbie is acting up and siding with her father on everything related to the divorce proceedings. Sigourney finds herself retreating into her research and teaching, and becoming more and more unable to comprehend the depth of the anger and feelings of losing everything important that are becoming a firm part of her every day life.
Then, she receives a phone call that changes her life. Her close friend Martha has passed away and willed Sigourney an ancient manuscript and a diary belonging to Martha’s great grandmother Anne Hopkins. The diary tells the tale of Anne’s travels into Tibet in 1899. Her journey takes place five years before the first recorded contact with Tibet by Englishman Colonel Younghusband in 1904. In a letter that Sigourney finds enclosed with the diary, Martha tells her friend how Anne saved the manuscript during her travels. The manuscript is a very valuable one, which was written during the time that Buddhism was being established in Tibet that sets down the teachings of Buddha. Anne received it from a monk in Llasa, who entreated her to take it with her, out of the country before the Chinese could destroy the holy relic. Martha’s letter further explains that Anne’s spirit has contacted her, and that Sigourney must secretly smuggle the manuscript back into Tibet and return it to the monastery it originally came from.
In quick succession, Anne finds herself taking a leave of absence from the University, leaving Debbie with her father, and flying across the planet to join a tour group traveling into Chinese controlled Tibet. As she gets closer to her destination, Sigourney finds her path becoming more dangerous as the Chinese are alerted to her presence and the fact that she might be bringing religious contraband into the country with her. Sigourney is forced to face many obstacles along the way, and finds herself helped and making friends with the Tibetan people she encounters on her travels. Along her journey Sigourney finds healing for her troubled soul and hope that she will make the monastery, and get out of Tibet and into Bhutan under the Chinese government’s radar.
Gordon Snider has written a story that team with adventure, danger and hope. He strives to show his readers a land that is climatically harsh, but populated with a culture that is friendly, and warm. A people who live their lives steeped in the mysticism and ceremonies of their beliefs. He brings attention to how the Chinese government is trying to subvert the Tibetan’s way of living and turn Tibet into just another part of communist controlled China. The author wrote Sigourney’s quest as a fictional way of trying to record the culture he fell in love with while visiting as a photographer during the 1990’s. This book is a protest to the Chinese control and a testament to the resilience of the Tibetan people.