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I Is Someone Else    by Patrick Cooper order for
I Is Someone Else
by Patrick Cooper
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2006 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In I Is Someone Else, Patrick Cooper tells the tale of fifteen-year-old English schoolboy named Stephen, who, serendipitously, drops out of a school trip en route to France and embarks in 1966 on a journey along the hippie trail through Europe to Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and finally India. On the surface, he's following in the footsteps of his long-lost brother Rob. But, as the story develops, it seems clear that Stephen is running away - from his cold home life, and from something that happened at his school, that haunts him. So his journey morphs into a spiritual quest.

The book's title comes from a poem by Arthur Rimbaud (a favorite of Stephen's English teacher, Mr. Wortle, The Wart) with a zen-like feeling to it. It begins - 'For "I" is someone else ... / That much is clear to me: / I am a spectator at the blossoming of my own thought'. On the ferry to France, Jerry and the lovely Astrid notice Stephen's resemblance to his big brother, whom they had recently seen in Istanbul. They offer to take Stephen along with them and he succumbs to the lure. His brother's parting words - 'Hey, bro, there's a big world out there, you know!' become his siren song.

In Istanbul, Stephen's enchanted by the Blue Mosque, but doesn't find his brother - there's word of him in Afghanistan. Then Jerry is arrested. Stephen meets Irish Mary who persuades him to continue with her. They're attacked in Iran, and rescued. As Stephen progresses on his journey of discovery, it becomes clear that he's running away from many things in his old life - his feelings about his parents and about his brother's leaving, and something that happened with The Wart. As Stephen progresses, he changes, becoming open to many new experiences he would not have considered before.

In India, amongst all the fake holy men who prey on tourists, Stephen meets a sadhu named Mukhtibaba - does the Baba actually help him, or is it all in his own head? Hardship and hunger and illness cause a dissolution of identity, from which Stephen is eventually saved by a surprising rescuer. He's returned home, faces his demons, and finally connects with his father, in this intriguing story.

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