by Gordon Cope

A note to Gordon Cope: don’t quit your day job. Oops! As the twee title of his book suggests, this advice comes a little too late.

In 1993, Cope, a Calgary-based journalist, and his wife were in debt. Both were tired of their jobs and of Canadian winters. They decided to do the unthinkable: quit their jobs, sell their house, and go to the South Pacific. After meeting a few nice people and drinking a lot, they returned to Calgary to take up similar jobs, the difference being that this time they rented a house instead of buying one.

Cope_So We Sold Our House and Ran Away to the South PacificCope declares that this is a story about “the pursuit of happiness.” What he doesn’t seem to realize is that saying so isn’t a licence to bore people silly with a laundry list of every beer or glass of Chardonnay partaken during a vacation taken 13 years ago. (Truly, the number of times Cope mentions alcohol could be the basis for a formidable drinking game.)

Visiting acquaintances in Australia, Cope makes this comment, which is only one of many cheesy one-liners: “I’d rather bob for apples in a piranha tank than look at holiday snaps.” And yet this is exactly the same kind of thing he imposes on his readers. Not only does nothing remarkable happen in this book, but the descriptions of place sound as if they were taken right from a Lonely Planet guide, which, along with Wikipedia, he credits as a key source of information.

Sophomoric, unworldly humour prevails. The architecture of one town, for instance, “holds all the charm of a retired rugby linebacker in a latex thong;” while a drive past the gay red light district in Auckland elicits: “Ah, Kiwi studs for rent – there’s a concept to warm your cockles.”

The book’s pithy conclusion is one worthy of post-Oz Dorothy: apparently, happiness resides in the heart. Astonishingly, people living on exotic islands have problems, just like you and me.

—Emily Donaldson