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Extended Audio Sample Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven Audiobook, by Susan Jane Gilman Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (3,044 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Susan Jane Gilman Narrator: Susan Jane Gilman Publisher: Hachette Book Group Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: March 2009 ISBN: 9781600244490
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In 1986, Susie and her friend Chloe, fresh-faced graduates from Brown University, were inspired by a placemat entitled “Pancakes of Many Nations” to depart on an epic trip around the world, starting with Hong Kong and the People’s Republic of China, then only recently opened to the rest of the world. As the two ventured into what turned out to be a strange and alien land, they encountered places far different from anything they had ever experienced, from the horrors of an open-ditch toilet in the back of a weird hybrid tenement hotel to a magical boat ride through a fantastic landscape of wind-carved mountains. At every turn, they stumbled upon unforgettable people, including an earnest local who called himself George and loved everything American from hamburgers to Stevie Wonder, a heroic German exchange student named Eckehardt Grimm, and a young waitress named Lisa in an unlikely restaurant in the middle of rural China that specialized in food for weary travelers, such as pancakes and pizza, “just like their mama make.”

Armed only with Nietzsche’s collected works and a copy of Linda Goodman’s Love Signs, Susie and Chloe were utterly unprepared for their expedition, and their experience alternated between culture shock and exotic adventure until a near-tragedy turned the trip into a true-life international thriller. Recounted in Susan Jane Gilman’s inspired and unmistakable voice, this adventure is an unforgettable voyage into a peculiarly modern heart of darkness.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Rich with insight, dead-on dialogue, and canny characterization.” 

    Amazon.com, editorial review

  • Gilman proves an able and entertaining storyteller. Though there is more about China in the unabridged print version, the abridgement does keep her account flowing quickly. There is also an informative Q&A with the author at the end. The Boston Globe
  • “Gilman delivers an entertaining memoir.” 

    Publishers Weekly

  • “A standout travel memoir.” 

    Booklist

  • “An ambitious and intimate coming-of-age memoir.” 

    Kirkus Reviews

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Margaret | 2/17/2014

    " Two recent female college graduates, Ivy League no less, decide to take a no frills back-packing, youth hostel type trip around the world, and decide to start with the Peoples Republic of China. In 1986. Probably not the best move - there's a pretty huge difference between visiting China now and visiting ~25 years ago. The inner jacket flap refers to their journey as "hilarious and harrowing," but there's a lot more harrowing than you'd think. Author Susan Jane Gilman writes well and honestly - I was engrossed. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Verna | 2/10/2014

    " I learned a lot about traveling in strange lands where you are an outsider and clueless. I also found out what can happen to two naive college kids in these far away countries, especially when one of them has a mental health problem and the other person is unaware of this. It gives one a nostalgic look back at the "me decade," the 1980's. Reads like a mystery/thriller but is a true story. Kept me glued. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kelly | 2/9/2014

    " I've enjoyed Gilman's other books, so I expected to like this one as well. I had to force myself to read the first half of the story because I felt as if Gilman was bashing me over the head with her credentials - Brown graduate with big boobs and big personality takes on the world! - and this became tedious. Thankfully, the second half of the book improved. Gilman and her college friend were brave and stupid to travel to China and naive and stupid to do some of the things they did, but their travels make for an adventurous story. I abhor the cover on the paperback - it's only purpose is titillating because the photo (and title of the book for that matter) really does not match what the book is about. Shame on Gilman and the publisher for pandering to (and tricking)audiences in this way. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tamara | 2/1/2014

    " I was immediately taken in, identifying with the clueless arrogance of Americans abroad. Immediately it became apparent that this was much more than that, and her insight into the area and time period in which they found themselves, total fish out of water, were fascinating to me. When the (real) mystery becomes apparent, I could not put the book down. The hospital experience was terrifying to me, so I can't even imagine having to live it. I highly recommend this. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gloria | 1/26/2014

    " Even though this book was my pick for bookclub, I was wondering how much I would like it. I'm relieved to say I did enjoy it. Can't wait to discuss it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 ginger-kitty | 1/23/2014

    " This was a fun romp and knowing it's a true story made up for lack of literary style. It also filled me with joy to read about the kindness of strangers, a gave me a big dose of wanderlust. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mel | 1/22/2014

    " 1986, China. Susie and her new friend Claire just graduated from Brown and are ready to take on the world. After Susie saves up money waiting tables, and Claire relaxes at her family's vacation house all summer, they take off to China to begin their adventures. What could go wrong? This true account of a young woman's adventures in a land where no one speaks your langauge, and has likely never seen a tall white person, takes a dark turn when the two girls begin to unravel. Who would you trust? Note: this travel account does not make you want to book your next vacation to Beijing! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jeanna | 1/19/2014

    " A travelogue that reads like a novel, this book is wonderful. Susan and her friend are traveling through China not long after it had been opened to backpackers. Their journey makes for riveting reading. I couldn't put it down. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jodi | 1/9/2014

    " Amazing..loved this book. Such an interesting perspective on travelling. Reminding me of Wild... the Hiking the Pacific Trail. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Judy | 1/8/2014

    " Interesting and bizarre travel book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 P | 1/8/2014

    " part travel/adventure, part about growing up and becoming cognizant of the world around us. My first book by this author. I want to read everything she has writtn now.. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Danielle Small | 1/5/2014

    " Loved loved this book:) "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joyce Beach | 12/30/2013

    " I read a brief overview of this book in a magazine and immediately loaded on my Kindle. It's about two Ivy League grads who backpack in China in 1984. The story grows more and more fascinating as one begins to descend into mental illness. Loved it!! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Aki Yada | 12/23/2013

    " Oh. don't waste your time reading this. I was looking forward to learn cool stuff about traveling china, but she really didn't write/travel much ... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Victoria Murata | 9/20/2013

    " A great memoir! I wondered how two young college educated women could be so naive in choosing China as their jumping off place for their world tour. Maybe Clair's mess would have turned out differently if they had started somewhere else. The story moves quickly--it's a page turner! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kathleen | 6/26/2013

    " I loved this book, I think it would make a great movie. It has drama, excitement and comedy all rolled into one entertaining book. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mike | 6/19/2013

    " A complete page-turner. Validates the old adage that "truth is stranger than fiction". "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Brandi Johnson | 2/20/2013

    " I bought this book on a recommendation and I couldn't even finish it. I was bored to tears and felt a disconnect from all of the characters. I was going to fight my way through it but decided my time was more valuable than the roughly 12 bucks I paid for it. Ugh. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lena | 9/9/2012

    " Enjoyable read - not what you would expect from the title or the introduction. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jimmie | 7/18/2012

    " Travel story with a WICKED twist!! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kung | 1/15/2012

    " Mrs Gilman's adventure in 87 was fascinating, electrifying, and uplifting. She and Claire definitely had an adventure of a lifetime. A book to read if you like traveling and adventure. So that should be all!!! Love the book and recommend it! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Brenda | 9/30/2011

    " I really loved this book. It's a great travel book with, I think, not a lot of romanticizing. It captures the good, the bad, the ecstatic, the horrific. It's well-written. It's a good portrait of a formative period of the author's life. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Caitlin | 6/24/2011

    " A very interesting read for those who like to travel and are also interested in the mental health field. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kara | 5/20/2011

    " I have just moved to China a few weeks ago. It's amazing how much China has progressed forward since the early 80's. The book covers a few different areas of China. Now I really want to travel to Guilin. Sounds beautiful there. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mina | 5/20/2011

    " In the 1980s, 2 College friends get drunk at an IHOP and decide to travel together around the world. China is where they head to first and have an adventure of a life time. Great story. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pat | 5/17/2011

    " Not your average travel experience book. Especially liked the last half of the book...couldn't put it down. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carmen | 5/3/2011

    " Read it for an upcoming book club discussion... The author will be there as well!!! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jessica | 5/1/2011

    " I enjoyed this book. It had a bit of the Eat, Pray Love feel to it. It was a bit of a page turner but then also left me hanging a bit. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Brandi | 4/20/2011

    " I bought this book on a recommendation and I couldn't even finish it. I was bored to tears and felt a disconnect from all of the characters. I was going to fight my way through it but decided my time was more valuable than the roughly 12 bucks I paid for it. Ugh. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jimmie | 4/19/2011

    " Travel story with a WICKED twist!! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janelle | 4/18/2011

    " Not what I expected at all!! A real page-turner... makes you think about who you choose as your travel companions! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Newgirl | 4/13/2011

    " A totally awesome, quirky, and fascinating adventure. Kept me turning pages to see "What's next?" "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carol | 4/12/2011

    " Two girls backpack in China after graduating from Brown University in 1986 when China had just been opened to independent travelers. Story of travel and friendship. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tracey | 3/28/2011

    " Incredible story. A total page-turner. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Constance | 3/18/2011

    " After college, Gilman and her friend decide to take a year traveling around the equator. In the process she discovers she doesn't know her friend at all and as she navigate traveling in communist China she must also navigate her travel mate's strange behavior. "

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About the Author
Author Susan Jane Gilman
Susan Jane Gilman is the author of Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dressand Kiss My Tiara. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan, and has written commentary for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Ms. magazine, among others. Her fiction and essays have received several literary awards. Though she lives in Geneva, Switzerland, she remains, eternally, a child of New York.