Dreaming of Oranges: An Unreliable Memoir
by Marcelline Thomson
Bowerbird Books

"People have all sorts of reasons to hit the road. I learned this early on."

Two young women pool their adventurous spirits to experience exotic places in the heady 1960s. They meet at a strict Catholic college. Sirrine, the narrator, is from small-town Minnesota, while Jean is a city sophisticate. By their senior year, both long for a real change. Spurred by Lawrence Durrell’s richly romantic Alexandria Quartet, they tell their parents they’re going to vacation in Greece but secretly intend exploring the Middle East, ignoring the risks rife in the region. Landing in “Alex,” Sirrine is soon in passionate love with a beautiful man, and Jean is mutely jealous. The two quickly immerse in local culture—smoking hashish, dodging men who want them for a night or two, and, before too long, falling prey to political intrigue and menace. Then Sirrine notices an eerie but undeniable fact: Jean has begun referring to herself in the third person. That and a terrifying border crossing make Sirrine fear for their lives and Jean’s sanity, realizing they must get to a safe space… soon.

Author/world traveler Thomson writes as though she has lived some of her heroines’ exploits. Her deft depictions of the deserts, the cities, and the cultural ways of the Middle Eastern people resonate with truth. The loves are sensuous, the dangers are real, and the violence… disturbing. Thomson reveals these elements gradually through the perceptions of two girls barely out of their teens who fancy themselves smart enough to take it all in stride. Anyone who has ever traveled abroad will readily identify with Sirrine and Jean, and all women of a certain age will remember those times when female adventurers were far more restricted—and in far more danger—than their male counterparts. The heroines’ reunion offers a poignant denouement, leaving the reader to suspect that these two hardy wanderers are not finished continent hopping.

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