In the early 1970s, Broughton Coburn lived and taught school in a subsistence-farming village on the edge of Nepal's Himalaya Mountains. It was there that he met and developed a unique friendship with a septuagenarian native widow named Vishnu Maya Gurung, fondly known to her relatives and locals as Aama, "mother." When Coburn moved into the hayloft above her water-buffalo shed, Aama became his landlady, but she also treated him like the son she never had. Having lost his own mother shortly before he met Aama, Coburn forged an immediate bond with the sprightly Nepali woman. Fifteen years after he first met Aama, Coburn returned to her remote village with his future wife Didi and an invitation for Aama to join them on a trip to America. At eighty-four, Aama believed she had become a burden to her grandchildren and therefore welcomed the chance to visit her adopted son's country. For Coburn, this was a way to introduce Aama to relatives and friends back home; but for Aama the trip represented something more - a pilgrimage that had been prescribed for her by village priests, an opportunity to gain merit by undertaking a strenuous journey during the final stage of her life. Aama in America is a vivid chronicle of what became a twenty-five-state, coast-to-coast adventure. Guided by the perpetual curiosity and deeply spiritual orientation of their intuitive, unpredictable travel companion, Coburn and Didi gradually began to view their country from an entirely new perspective. The more they experienced Aama's unclouded vision of America, the more they realized they were not simply traveling across the United States - they were undertaking an emotional and philosophical odyssey toward a greater understanding of their culture, their country, and themselves.
Account of a cross-country American journey the author undertook with an 84-year-old Himalayan woman he befriended while working in Nepal. (Apr.)