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Undiscovered Country

Book Review

By Ann Zeise

You might be interested in a fairly new book I just finished reading. While its not supposed to be an “unschooling book,” it is unusual. The link is to the Amazon.com store, if you’d like to read it.

The Undiscovered Country, by Samantha Gillison

Story takes place in New Guinea, where the Campbell family – Peter, June, and 7 year old daughter Taylor – have gone so dad can work on studying some disease. His grant denied, they go using June’s inheritance money. They wind up in the remote fictional villiage of Abini. While they purchase a curriculum for Taylor, she refuses to have anything to do with it, preferring to be off in the jungle with her new found native friends, doing goodness knows what. But she winds up learning the language faster than her parents and she knows where to find food in the jungle. It takes quite awhile before the New Guinea mamas can figure out how to tell June she really shouldn’t let Taylor go off in the bushes with bigger boys! It’s also a novel about the strains of marriage and the clash of cultures. You might call it an unschooling family’s nightmare. A bit dark at times, but I couldn’t put it down.

Here’s a passage. Taylor has broken out in some itchy rash from something she ate or came into contact with in the jungle. They have left Abini to get treatment at a distant settlement…..

 “Things are going to be different in Abini from now on, ” June said. “You have to stay with me and Daddy during the day.”

 “Why?” Taylor asked and put the cup on the nightstand.

“Tayie,” she said, “you are an American girl, not a New Guinean. The bumps are allergies, they’re allergies to this place, from being too close to it.”

“Oh,” Taylor said. “But I like to play with Tavitai and Entibe.”

“I know,” June said. “But you have to play closer to the house. Or we’ll all have to leave.”

Taylor was silent.

“We’re going to do school, too,” she said. “We’re going to do a correspondence course. Or else when you get back to Boston, all your friends will know more than you.”

Taylor looked up at her mother. She seemed startled, and June thought she would say something. But Taylor’s expression changed; it was as if she left the room or turned away, but she was still in front of June. What was upsetting her, June wondered. Couldn’t she remember Boston?


At that moment June was revolted by her daughter. She thought about Taylor in Abini, how she came home every day covered with dirt, her mouth full of the glottal stops and quick clicks of the native language, and the long worms coiled and curled in her large intestine that they had to flush out every two months with Mebendazole. She and Peter had to hold on to her and keep her from running into the mountains.


You might have fun thinking about why Taylor seemed startled. I’ve no doubt Taylor dimly remembered Boston, but I think she felt she knew a whole lot more than her old friends at home. But here, the price of freedom is too dear, as you shall come to realize as the drama unfolds.

Buy the BookThe Undiscovered Country, by Samantha Gillison


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