Book Review: The Shell of a Person by Lance Pototschnik

Probably my favorite cover of the year (so far)…



This book is absolutely hilarious.  I think I woke up my husband a few times laughing my ass off.  Here is the synopsis:

“Welcome to beautiful Costa Rica! Come and experience our diverse wildlife. Exhume nests of dead baby turtles and stay up all night while mosquitoes elicit blood from your very soul! Indulge in the local cuisine. Eat rice and beans until the malnutrition engenders hallucinations! Travel west to Guanacaste, to the peninsula that pokes into the Pacific like a fang. Lose yourself on the remote, cocoa-dust beaches, where rare sea turtles drag themselves from the seething ocean to nest. Camp beside the water to leave civilization and all its cheerfulness behind. Burn bucketfuls of used toilet paper, shiver in an infested bed and pump your bathing water from a putrid hole…every single day for weeks!”

Lance Pototschnik and his friends must have booked their trip with that agency. Their incredibly affordable “vacation” was meant to be a relaxing time to meditate on the direction of their languid, aimless lives. Instead, they are introduced to hell and the insane diversity of its tortures.

Marooned on a remote sea turtle conservancy with a handful of fellow unanchored souls, Pototschnik, in his hilarious debut memoir, ponders who he essentially is, and what he is likely to become. But he speaks to all of us. In Pototschnik, those who have fallen prey to the desolation of broken dreams, the young and the listless, finally find a voice with the talent to cast out demons and turn them into laughs. Through his own outrageous tale, Pototschnik offers the questions of the brooding, the concerns of the anxious and the hopes of the hopeless in a witty, irrepressible voice that will not shame them. 

Beneath its shell, this rollicking, episodic story is also a treatise about finding your purpose, realizing your full potential and learning to love your own life. Pototschnik’s very personal book happens to be the story we have all been hoping for. The Shell of a Person is one of the best books by an emerging author this year.

The hilarity.  The humor is fantastic.  The descriptions of his fellow turtle rescuers is priceless.  They come from all over the world and he mainly refers to them by their country of origin.  And then there are the physical descriptions:

She seemed as miserable with herself as us three incomers, and her face was slightly reminiscent of Eduardo, the fetal pig I dissected in college lab. 

The description of one of his chores in the camp literally made tears roll down my face.  But aside from the humor, the author really examines this time period in young adulthood:

All of us at the rescue, whether we all knew it or not, were shells, skin puppets, waiting for something to crawl inside and animate us, and only now, with the example of the possessed French woman, did I realize that, all this time, the evil things had had as good a chance of finding the hollow as the good things.

Very thought-provoking, excellently written.  He also provides a pretty good description of what I think life might be like in this part of the world.

Many of my “reading wishes” were answered: excellent writing, fantastic descriptions of places I have never been to, humor and a deeper meaning.

A short read and highly recommended.

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