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Extended Audio Sample Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, 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:
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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.” 


  • “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 by 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 by 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 by 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 by 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. "

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