Nasty, Brutish, and Short

Nasty, Brutish, and Short is a collection of irreverent essays about life overseas. The author no longer has to hold his tongue about his experiences—which means it’s payback time. He now speaks his mind about all the strange people and places he has encountered around the world over the last twenty years.

And he takes the reader on a funny and endearing jaunt to a dozen countries, from England to Egypt, and Afghanistan to Haiti, answering crucial questions like Why are Pakistani driving ranges so dangerous? And, How long can Bulgarians actually hold a grudge?

Unlike other foreign travel books, the author isn’t just passing through. He has lived in these dangerous and difficult places, often for years at a time. He knows their people, streets, and customs like the back of his hand. It was part of his job. Sometimes his life depended on it.

I have never before read such an amazingly powerful book about someone else’s journey through various countries and cultures. The way Todd Millick was able to create actual personalities for Bulgaria, Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Turkey, Romania and Algeria you would think these are the names of people instead of places.

 Bulgaria became the bad girl lover that would scare the crap out of your mom when she shows up looking a bit on the Kurt Cobain style grunge side but actually had one of those tortured artist souls which could find the beauty where others only saw brokenness.

 Chad is the smelly, geeky kid standing on the sidelines begging someone to pick him to play flag football but all people can see are the negatives. They miss out on the determination and drive that will push him to succeed, if only by an inch, but never will settle for last place.

 Admittedly, as a woman, it was harder for me to read about Afghanistan because of the decidedly and intentionally created anti-female culture. The fact that men can’t exist without women and would die out completely within a century making our gender quite important seems to have escaped them. I did love reading about the varied environments from the unending amounts of sand to mountain filled green hills. It reminded me a bit of Texas in that you get nearly every type of landscape within one geographic boundary.

 I think I would endure sensory overland in Egypt with its reliance on using noise, and loudly with lots of it, to communicate. I’m better in silence, even dog barks make my spine curl up on itself. I get road rage just driving in DFW, I’m pretty sure I’d be on the news for turning their traffic jams into a session of extreme bumper cars.

 Pakistan scared me. I had this image in my head of the monster under your bed who moved his cousin into your closet so nowhere in your room is safe. I have a lot of respect though for their family oriented culture.

 Algeria definitely reminded me of the major metro areas in Texas as there are vast tracts of undeveloped land, which I love, but that also means you squeeze millions of people into 4 basic areas: Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas-Ft Worth which even though is technically two cities really is just one gigantic circle that feeds off each other. Of course there is the far west, east and north side but the center is where all the action is at. In describing how they handle terrorist attacks it really puts American reactions, particularly lately in perspective.

 Millick’s writing takes humor to a whole new level as he uses descriptions about countries that immediately bring to life images of embarrassing cousins you hope never to admit publicly a DNA similarity to or roll your eyes at American misconceptions of everything outside its own borders. From page one I began feeling homesick for the greater world as I have apparently been inside the US geographic lines too long.

 Reading his impressions reminded me of the first time I stood inside Bosnia while looking over Croatia and realized that despite all the wars which get fought there is no visible line to show you where one side ends and the other begins. We may have maps, Google Earth and GPS systems that insist a line is drawn down the land to ensure ownership but when you’re standing there it doesn’t exist.

 The world is so much more of everything, more beautiful, more complicated, more intriguing than what many believe. Millick reminds you of that the deeper you get into his book.

 Thank you to Netgalley and Hamilton Books for allowing me to review this book.

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*synopsis and pic from

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