Book Reviews

Borneo Tom: Stories and Sketches of Love, Travel and Jungle Family in Tropical Asia | Book Review

Borneo Tom: Stories and Sketches of Love, Travel and Jungle Family in Tropical Asia | Book Review Borneo Tom: Stories and Sketches of Love, Travel and Jungle Family in Tropical Asia by Tom McLaughlin
Original Publication Date: 2010
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Source: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Science Teacher Tom McLaughlin battled a rare neurological disease to a stand still, packed up his life and moved to Malaysian Borneo from a Washington D.C. suburb. Landing in Kuching, he quickly learned the Malay language and involved himself in projects which includes orangutan rehabilitation and research about the famed naturalist, Alfred Wallace, whose thunder was stolen by Charles Darwin. These actions prompted respect from international scholars. The advent of cheap air travel to many destinations in Southeast Asia transported him to many adventures. From dancing naked in an earthquake in Sumatra, to getting lost in a warren of World War II Japanese caves to walking the rim of a volcano with poisonous gas, he has jumped with foolhardiness into everything wild and wonderful, all related in his book Borneo Tom. Reuniting with his Peace Corps family of thirty-five years ago, sharing adventures with one daughter, then reconciling with another after a divorce, marriage with a full kampung ceremony, and then taking both daughters on his honeymoon to Bali are a few of the highlights of his remarkable personal life.

Borneo Tom: Stories and Sketches of Love, Travel and Jungle Family in Tropical Asia is a surprisingly delightful book concerning a part of the world that most people know little about.

After American science teacher Tom McLaughlin was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, he decided to not let it stop him.

He had long been fascinated by Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia, having spent time there as a young Peace Corps volunteer.

Tom Decides To Move To Borneo

But Tom decided to move there, not just visit as a tourist.

As his friends asked him:

‘How do you spend 22-plus hours in a plane and still stay sane?’ is the question I am often asked when I travel back and forth between Malaysia and the States. My reply: ‘I have never been sane in my life, so why would this make any difference?’

He was fascinated by the people, the lands, and the cultures. He eventually settled down in Borneo.

This book is a cheerful and unusual record of his travels throughout the area. Each section is a separate essay with a certain angle.

This unusual approach does break up the continuity of the narration.

It also lets Tom explore different subjects, particularly his fascination with the naturalist Alfred Wallace. I had never heard of Wallace before, and it made for interesting reading.

Tom is unafraid to encounter leeches, monkeys, and anything in the jungles. As a biologist, he is fascinated by the different species. Tom is especially partial to orangutans!

Final Analysis

What I really like about Tom is his openness to learning the language and respect for other cultures. He has a wonderful sense of humor.

There is a surprise ending to the book that I will not spoil for you, leaving you to find out for yourself! No one was more surprised than Tom!

The book is a large-format paperback with delightful drawings by Waterfront Niki, which add to the humorous slant of the book.

om shows a part of the world that is largely unknown in a lighthearted way.

What could have been a boring travelogue becomes a charmingly original tale of life and love in the tropics.

Tom did a guest post on Tell Me A Story where he talks about this book.

If you enjoyed this post, please read my review of Bobblehead Dad: 25 Life Lessons I Forgot I Knew by Jim Higley.

About Tom McLaughlin

Tom McLaughlin is a man who has actually done what most of us only dream about – he’s followed his dream to the ends of the earth, found happiness and love, and has now written a book about his exploits and some of the issues that are important to him. Borneo Tom – In Story and Sketch: Love, Travel and Jungle Family in Tropical Asia isn’t a work of fiction or a memoir. Rather, it’s a humorous account of adventures and amazing insights into a part of the world that is sometimes misunderstood by the rest of us. (From his website)

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