Izabela Shopova is a native of Bulgaria. In 2002, her husband was hired to work in New Zealand. She, her husband, and their daughter moved to Warkworth near Auckland on the North Island of New Zealand. Her book East in Eden is about their journey, their adventures, and their life in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
Shopova begins her tale with an explanation that her family has a history of emigration, so the move is natural for her – it’s in her blood. Her husband’s family has even more so, coming from a cultural group whose very name, Madjuri, means migrant or foreigner.
The amount of open space in New Zealand, and the consequent amount of time to get from place to place, provides a significant amount of culture shock. The extremely different foods available provide another. In the beginning, many of her tales speak of the beauty, sparse population, and diverse tastes the family encounters. In one story, she prepares a traditional Bulgarian meal for her neighbors that is met with less-than-enthusiastic responses because what is normal in a Bulgarian meal (feta cheese, olives, and yogurt, for example) go unappreciated, if not simply untasted, by the Kiwis.
Personal family matters also find exposure in the book. Shopova writes with great wit about her teenage daughter as an “extraterrestrial” when she begins the weekly, or often daily, shifts in behavior that can accompany the teen years. That topic also is explored within the context of the culture into which they have moved when they participate in activities in the New Zealand countryside.
Izabela Shopova writes with openness and humor. The book contains a travelogue of the many places she visits as well as the history and mythology that have created New Zealand. Occasionally her sentence structure, word usage, and overall grammar has an awkward feel to it, reminding the reader that English is not her first language. Running across those passages can stop the flow of the story, but though they are significant enough to notice, they are infrequent enough not to interfere with the book as a whole. All in all, East in Eden is an enjoyable read.
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