by Richard Reeves and family
Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.” It’s a mantra any 12-year-old could love, but Fiona O’Neill Reeves utters her choco-chant while clinging to the stomach-turning Octopus ride in a Hong Kong amusement park “because I wanted it to be my last word.” Spunky Fiona often has the last word in this account of how syndicated newspaper columnist Richard Reeves and clan spent their summer vacation of ’95: traversing the world on a monthlong itinerary that included Bali, Kathmandu, Islamabad and Berlin.
The book is essentially a group travel diary, with Reeves supplying the obligatory notes on local culture and politics in the 14 countries the family visited. His wife, Catherine O’Neill, founder of the Women’s Commission for Women and Children Refugees, organized this exotic lark of a trip. She is a socially conscious tour guide of the “on your left, notice the disgraceful economic conditions” variety. (This, and self-conscious references to how cheaply the family travels—on a $30,000 vacation—almost turn the adventure into a liberal-guilt trip.)
O’Neill’s likable grown sons from a previous marriage—Colin, an L.A. TV producer, and Conor, a musician—provide the narrative with a few laughs, as when Colin, in his Dubai hotel room, turns a sticker pointing in the direction of Mecca so that the next Islamic guest will pray to Philadelphia instead. The book is a family vacation slide show between hardcovers: Like one of those rec-room travelogues, it’s interesting more for what it tells us about this gung ho family than about the vacation. (Andrews & McMeel, $22.95)