The Sullivan Saga: Memories of an Overseas Childhood
M. H. Sullivan
Romagnoli Publications (2010)
Reviewed by Olivera Baumgartner-Jackson for Reader Views (08/10)
Moving to a new country is always tough. Moving more than once is tougher. Well, how about having moved from the USA to South Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, Thailand and Ethiopia? Did I mention that the person in question was just shy of seven-years-old when the moves first started happening? And that her family at the time of the first move had seven members, and that the eighth arrived within days of arrival to South Korea?
And only a couple of years later their number grew to nine? And to make matters much more interesting, we are talking times well before such things as cell phones and the Internet with nowadays ubiquitous e-mail, to be more precise, the years between 1957 and 1972. If this has not spiked your interest yet, you probably do not have a curious bone in your body. As for me, a mere glance at the cover sent my pulse racing. An overseas childhood, how fascinating…
Maureen Sullivan’s “The Sullivan Saga: Memories of an Overseas Childhood” is an extremely entertaining, but also tremendously astute book. While mostly recounting her memories from the viewpoint of a child, and later a teenager, Ms. Sullivan manages to convey a very clear image of time and places where she grew up.
Very entertaining and often slightly wistful, she never becomes preachy or sounds condescending, those being some things that have often bothered me in books describing life in other countries and cultures. Her observations are not judgmental, but also not unnecessarily varnished. One constantly feels like one is being entertained by a particularly well-put together slide show from a fascinating journey somebody had the great fortune to go on.
“The Sullivan Saga: Memories of an Overseas Childhood” is filled with precious tidbits from lives of seven children who had to adapt to a new culture every few years, attend new schools, find new friends and manage to fit in everywhere they found themselves; American children raised by American parents, who nevertheless would never be quite the same as those kids raised in the States, always outsiders to some degree, but richer
for the experiences they’ve lived through from such early ages on.
While books of this kind usually leave me wishing to know how the people featured in them fared later on, Ms. Sullivan managed to assuage this by providing an epilogue, describing what happened to each of the Sullivan children later in life. I was also pleased to discover her website, mentioned in the Appendix, which has more wonderful photos, some of them even in color. All of that provided a clearer and more complete picture, and for that I am grateful; as I am for the absolutely enchanting Christmas letters, written by Ms.
Sullivan’s mother and also included in the Appendix.
If you have ever wondered how American diplomats really lived abroad before the world became much smaller due to technology, and if you would like to understand how completely adaptable children truly are, you should definitely read “The Sullivan Saga: Memories of an Overseas Childhood.” It will leave a lasting impression for sure.