by Mischa Berlinski
Somewhere between Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa and Alex Garland's The Beach lies Mischa Berlinski's debut novel, Fieldwork. With its exotic backdrop (the hill country of northern Thailand), dogged quest for meaning (the facts behind the mysterious murder of an American missionary), and meticulous detailing of tribal customs and anthropological facts, this unlikely marriage of page-turner and dissertation results in some clever and highly entertaining fiction.
First, the premise: A young American freelance writer accompanies his girlfriend to Chiang Mai, Thailand, after the Internet start-up where he works goes out of business. Rachel takes a job teaching first grade to expat children and the uninspired scions of the Thai elite, while Mischa, the narrator, occupies himself by writing for an English-language
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