In 1986, Susie and her friend Chloe, fresh-faced graduates from Brown University, were inspired by a placemat entitled “Pancakes of Many Nations” to depart on an epic trip around the world, starting with Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China, then only recently opened to the rest of the world. As the two ventured into what turned out to be a strange and alien land, they encountered places far different from anything they had ever experienced, from the horrors of an open-ditch toilet in the back of a weird hybrid tenement hotel, to a magical boat ride through a fantastic landscape of wind-carved mountains. At every turn, they stumbled upon unforgettable people, including an earnest local who called himself George and loved everything American from hamburgers to Stevie Wonder, a heroic German exchange student named Eckehardt Grimm, and a young waitress named Lisa in an unlikely restaurant in the middle of rural China that specialized in food for weary travelers, such as pancakes and pizza, “just like their mama make.”
Armed only with Nietzsche’s greatest works and a copy of Linda Goodman’s Love Signs, Susie and Chloe were utterly unprepared for their expedition, and their experience alternated between culture shock and exotic adventure, until a near-tragedy turned the trip into a true-life international thriller. Recounted in Susan Jane Gilman’s inspired and unmistakable voice, this adventure is an unforgettable voyage into a peculiarly modern heart of darkness.