Hardship Post, by Robert J. Taylor. Outskirts Press. 306 pages. Trade paperback $16.95.
Robert J. Taylor has written a memoir of Americans abroad that is suspenseful, informative, and colorful. He and his wife Sue led a life of privilege in Karachi, Pakistan. And yet, the title of “Hardship Post” is not merely ironical; it carries certain fundamental truths. The walls around their upper-class residence in an elite Karachi neighborhood provided privacy and security, but these barriers are also emblems of confinement and isolation.
When Bob Taylor, an experienced hospital administrator, gets a plumb position helping to plan and develop the Aga Khan University Hospital, he gains not only a life-changing opportunity, but entrance into a land filled with growing instability and threat.
Mr. Taylor’s achievement is to keep readers in a place of tension between privilege and danger over this four-year sojourn in the mid-1980s. During this period, he and Sue rekindle their marriage through a shared adventure, allow their children to become citizens of the world, see a radically different culture close up, and work at tasks that make a difference – bringing unparalleled health services to many thousands of people within a larger enterprise that helps millions.
In writing this narrative, the author looked back from a perspective of thirty years. The lessons he learned along the way and in the decades since could have very easily burdened the story-telling with hindsight understandings and conclusions. However, Mr. Taylor is able to keep things fresh, capturing the “innocents abroad” feeling of new beginnings and idealistic expectations.
To have servants on hand to operate your residence and relieve family members of domestic chores is clearly not a hardship. However, if you are not used to it, the presence of others – this new kind of extended family or household – is not necessarily pleasant. Nor is the sense of social obligation to employ a servant contingent.
What might be a hardship? Finding an appropriate residence; getting repairs done in a timely fashion; getting even unreliable telephone service; worrying about the shortage of safe water for bathing, drinking, and cleaning. Simply being out of your element – in a situation with different social and workplace manners and expectations – can be difficult. Fear of political instability and consequent danger. Mr. Taylor provides abundant particulars about all of these concerns. . . .
To read this review in its entirety, as it appears in the March 5, 2014 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 6 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Charlotte County editions click here Florida Weekly – Taylor 1 and here Florida Weekly – Taylor 2