This has been such a heavy month. We lost Robin Williams, there was a sizeable earthquake in Napa that had many of us waking at 3.20am wondering if it was “the big one,” and it doesn’t look good for Joan Rivers at the moment. So I decided to post a review of a book that I normally wouldn’t have read.
Jamie Baywood’s ebook popped up for me as a Fussy Librarian selection, and I decided to take a chance on it. It was the right book at the right time, the humorous memoir of an American woman working as a clueless temp in New Zealand.
Baywood is a 26-year-old Petaluma, CA, native who impulsively moves to New Zealand when her job at a Whole Foods-like grocery store folds. She signs up as a temp worker in NZ (I had no idea that Americans can legally work there, so thanks for that, Jamie!). She gets a succession of grotty flats and works in a number of lousy temp positions, the last one being for a screaming boss called Selma Shark. By then she’s met a nice divorced Scottish guy working as a gardener whose father has somehow been knighted (don’t ask, she never explains).
The memoir is told in diary form. While I laughed at Jamie’s descriptions, it was hard not to laugh AT her sometimes. She is very good at picking up body language and speech and telling it even if it embarrasses her. For example, here is a famous theatre director’s reaction to her: “He smiles and looks at me closely, as if examining me with his green eyes that seem to go right through me. I can’t tell if he is amused or horrified; there seems to be a mix of attraction and repulsion chemistry coming from him. Sometimes he stares so closely that I think he’s about to kiss me; other times he looks as if he wants to put duct tape over my mouth.”
Jamie just doesn’t seem to know how she is coming across—as a crass and rude American. There are many WTF episodes in the book where I scratched my head and thought, “Did she really say that??” It doesn’t always go over well with coworkers. One strange example is where she jokes that one young straight male coworker has given another a hand job, causing horrified stares and silence from the people she’s trying to win over. There’s no self-awareness, though. None whatsoever.
Jamie initially makes a big deal of trying to be single for a year after numerous crappy relationships, so it’s rather depressing to see her running right back into a codependent relationship at the end of her time in NZ. And because her beloved is European and she’s American, she gets to marry him so they can stay together…! Again, the stunned reaction from people around the couple is not the reaction you would WANT to ideally get when you announce you’re getting married. By the end of the book, when she announces, “I came to this country for an adventure, not to cry in a cubicle,” the reader gets an idea of the arrogance behind her wide-eyed charm.
But I’d still recommend it!