Outlook Newspapers’ Karin Esterhammer shared slides and fun stories related to her new book, “So Happiness to Meet You — Foolishly, Blissfully Stranded in Vietnam,” with about 70 readers at a book signing last week at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena.
Esterhammer, a copy editor with the Outlook, previously was an editor, writer and travel columnist at the Los Angeles Times for 15 years. She’s been published in the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, the Christian Science Monitor and other publications.
“So Happiness to Meet You,” a 256-page memoir released by Prospect Park Books on July 11, is a humorous account of Esterhammer’s 2½-year stay in Vietnam.
After her family was hit by the Great Recession, Esterhammer, her husband and their then-8-year-old son sold almost all of their possessions and moved to Vietnam to find work teaching English. They lived in a 9-foot-wide back-alley house in one of Ho Chi Minh City’s poorest districts.
They were the first foreigners to move to the neighborhood, and children followed them around, housewives peered into Esterhammer’s shopping basket and neighbors unabashedly stared into their windows.
Those neighbors, few of whom spoke English, also generously shared their barbecued rat, kept cockroaches for luck and ultimately helped Esterhammer find joy without Western trappings.
“I learned to stop and smell the roses without complaining about the aphids that got stuck up my nostrils,” Esterhammer said of the lessons she learned from the Vietnamese about true happiness.
A review in the Library Journal reads: “Esterhammer creates laugh-out-loud moments of at times daunting or utterly embarrassing experiences.”
Kirkus Reviews called it “a lighthearted memoir of new friends, delicious food, and culture shock … A brisk chronicle of a family’s (mis)adventures in Vietnam.”
“So Happiness to Meet You” is available at local bookstores as well as online at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com.
For more information, visit karinesterhammer.com/So_Happiness_to_Meet_You.