Book Review: Lost Angel Unleashed: You’ll Be “Gobsmacked” At Ballou’s Third Book in Her Lost Angel Travel Series
Lost Angel Unleashed is the third in Linda Ballou’s Lost Angel Travel Series. The first two are Lost Angel Walkabout: One Traveler’s Tales and Lost Angel in Paradise: Outdoor Days From L.A. to the Lost Coast of California. Walkabout covers Linda’s travel writing experiences up until about 2010 and Paradise shares 32 of her favorite day trips from Malibu to Mendocino. I have now been privileged to lose myself in all three books, and am delighted to share why I believe the stories contained in Unleashed are truly a gift from Linda to her readers – and not to be missed.
Lost Angel Unleashed is divided into two sections. Part One, Thanks for the Memories covers pivotal personal events in her life while Part Two, Destinations to Die For, treats the reader to stories related to Linda’s experiences with adventure travel. Both are addictive and you just might find yourself staying up late as you decide you want to make time for “just one more” chapter.
As Linda explains in her Introduction, this is a book in which she shares stories of a more personal nature than she has previously felt comfortable publishing. She makes this eminently clear with the first story, Bear Heart, in which she shares how at age 14, her life was forever changed, and how the events that ensued over the next couple of years eventually led her to become an author.
When the story begins, Linda is a schoolgirl, living with her parents in Haines, Alaska. She arrives home from school one afternoon, to discover that her father has packed up all of her belongings and arranged to permanently move her — yet that day — from their family home to San Diego, California, where she would live with an older – but unrelated – woman she and her parents knew. Not only is she dumbstruck with this situation, but we quickly learn that the first leg of her journey of expulsion is to be accomplished via a small seaplane that delivers rural Alaskan mail — when weather permits — which technically, it did not, on that day.
Readers soon discover that Linda’s father felt her immediate extradition was necessary, despite the fact that air travel was not advisable that day. So why did he insist on sending his daughter off on white-knuckle flight? Linda explains that he believed it was his fatherly duty to protect her, in order to keep her from spending any further time with Bobby, an 18-year old classmate who was half Tlingit Indian. We read that Linda’s father considered Bobby socially unacceptable because he was only half White.
You’ll want to read the story yourself to find out why it is titled “Bear Heart.” In the process you’ll also discover why Linda believes this gut-wrenching experience led her — in several ways — toward her writing career. I recently told Linda how positively impactful this story had been for me and she replied that it had been difficult for her to make the decision as to whether “Bear Heart” should be this book’s leadoff story. I believe she made the proper decision, as it sets you up for the rest of the book.
Train’s on Fire, is another story that will stick with me for the rest of my life. In it, Linda writes of reading in the sleeping car of a train. It’s late and her light is the only one lit, as she quietly reads about the commonality of consciousness in Karl Jung’s book, Man and His Symbols. Suddenly the man seated directly in front of her stands up, turns around, looks directly at her and says: “Train’s on fire. File out to the left.”
He then moves along the car’s length, waking and warning the remaining passengers, and of course pandemonium ensues. Linda’s memorable way of tying Jung’s theory that our minds manifest our thoughts in dreams to what actually happened makes this a very satisfying read.
To further whet your interest in this book, let me share a bit about a third tale, The Enemy. This one involves Linda and a homeless man who find themselves sharing a strip of sand at Emma Woods Beach Park in Ventura, California. She recounts her unease with her original intent of settling down to doze in the sun due to his presence. She tries to avoid eye-contact and eventually moves herself further down the sand. And yet, she offers up a feel-good happy ending, even though she admits to still wondering about the encounter.
Linda tells these stories as easily as if you and she are relaxing together over drinks at the end of the day. As you read, you easily connect her tales with events of your own life. For example, when I read “Bennelong,” her story about Woollarawarre Bennelong, leader of the Wangle people of Australia, I wanted to reply by telling her a story about my high school’s 1969 AFS student. The beautiful young White woman, who hailed from South Africa, seemed ever so cultured, with her charming British accent, and I enjoyed getting to know her. But I will never forget a late night discussion she and I had while we were away on a weekend ski trip.
She made observations about our school’s Black students, remarking about how intelligent and well-spoken they were. I agreed, because she was correct. She then left me horrified and speechless when she knowingly added that “Our South African Blacks are not like that. They have very low intelligence. They are like children and need to be told how to do absolutely everything.” I still cannot believe how sure she was that her words were totally factual. She was so absolute in her belief that I still have to wonder how Black South African leaders like Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu ever managed to become educated as a teacher, much less how he became an Anglican priest…
But getting back to Australia’s Bennelong, he hailed from Manly, right across from Sydney Harbor, and lived there from 1764 and 1813 with the exception of the when time British Captain Arthur Phillip, abducted him, moved him into the governor’s house in Sydney, dressed him in British clothing and attempted to Anglicize him, eventually even Moving him to England for a few years, where Bennelong was put on display at the court. Eventually Bennelong became ill, asked to return to Australia, and quickly reassimilated himself with the ways of the land and his people, becoming one again a respected elder of his people. But, Linda says, it didn’t last. Sadly, he developed a penchant for rum, succumbed to alcoholism and wasn’t able to control his rages.
The book’s second part covers thirteen tales culled from Linda’s adventurous travels, and is titled “Destinations to Die For.” Here you will learn about Isabella Bird and how Linda traced her hoofprints through Colorado’s Front Range. Other equally delightful chapters cover Linda’s experiences in Africa’s wild places, as well as in Ecuador, British Columbia, California’s Central Coast, Alaska’s Glacier Bay and Patagonia.
All in all, Lost Angel Unleashed is a scrumptious read. You may find that it is tempting to rush through it, just for the pleasure of letting you eyes “gulp down” Linda’s beautifully descriptive prose. But, I recommend that you don’t gorge on this book. It’s definitely better to read it at a more sedate pace, so that you can really take in all the delightful details she masterfully crafts into each story. That way, the book lasts longer. Highly recommended.