Through Dust and Dreams - Reviews

Amazon Reviews: 


Reviewed in the United States on April 12, 2019

Thought provoking and captivating account of one a woman’s journey roughing it through Africa while wrestling with her own personal journey about life dreams and reality.

Julie Morris
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent travelogue
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on April 28, 2020
I absolutely love travelogue novels, especially ones about places I haven’t visited and experiences I am never likely to have myself, as this is the closest I can get to being there myself, particularly is the writing is evocative and immersive. I have always been peculiarly obsessed with reading books about Africa, the more remote corners the better, because it is a world so far away from the one I know and these are places I am unlikely to get to in person. This fascination was ignited by the Gerald Durrell books I read in my teens and has never abated. I wanted to take on overland trip across Africa after uni but my parents wouldn’t allow it and, since then, the opportunity has never arisen, so books are the closest I can get.

This book describes the kind of trip I wished I could have taken myself, and probably the exact reason my parents didn’t want me to go. The author takes a massive risk in making this journey into one of the most dangerous and unknown parts of the world with total strangers, and I was absolutely fascinated and terrified for her at the same time. I very quickly became totally involved in her story, because I could so easily but that younger version of myself that wanted to make such a trip in her shoes, and I was envious and panicked in equal measure throughout. Despite this being a true story, or maybe because it was factual, this was as gripping as any fictional tale, with as many highs, lows and hair-raising moments as you could wish for. The pace is compelling throughout, and I read through it in record time.

The author is Romanian by birth and has lived in many different countries and this has given her a turn of phrase that is unusual and takes a little while to get used to but, in the end, it added to the exotic feel of the whole experience and I really enjoyed it. There is a lot of description of her feelings, and the emotional experience she has along the way. For me, this was one of the things that I liked most about the book, as an empathetic person who always wants to understand the motivations and feelings that underpin everything, this brought the book to life for me. There may be other people for whom the navel-gazing detracts from the travellers tale. Horses for courses.

This book brought Africa, its landscapes, different countries and diversity of people to life for me. It aroused every sense – sounds, tastes, smells, sights and tactile experiences are all described vividly and in detail, it was a tactile reading experience which is a real skill to achieve. I have to say, the book did not disappoint any of my hopes or expectations for it, it was a throughly engaging and rewarding read that I felt fully rewarded me for the time I invested in reading it.

This book has succeeded in feeding my obsession with Africa and my desire to visit these far-flung outposts for myself one day. Until then, I’ll have to seek out more reads like this to take me there from my armchair.

Goodreads Reviews: 

"This memoir is the detailed, honest and open sharing of the author’s African Adventure. I found it powerful, exciting and fascinating on many levels. Over 15 years ago, when Roxana Valea was a young woman, and a recent college graduate, beginning her professional life, she took a 10-day safari trip to Africa. Her brief encounter with the mysterious and ancient Africa led her to commit to a much longer journey.

And we get to go along with her! Ms. Valea shares the rich details of her eight months of travel, vivid stories that begin in Morocco, Northern Africa, and end in Namibia, in the southern part of the continent. We feel the jolts in the road, the dust on our skin, the pain of mosquito bite, the heat and humidity boating for three days on the Congo River, and the fear of dealing with local police. And we also get to meet wise and loving people, in small villages, larger cities, and in the dunes of the Sahara.
We learn that good things come to those who have given up expecting them. And we begin to understand the power of the present. Highly recommend." Jena Henry

"I enjoyed this amazing memoir by Author Roxana Valea as she takes us to her travels though her stories of an African Adventure. This was a fun read that started as a 10 day Safari trip to Africa in April 2002 in Namibia where an encounter with a local guide led Valea to quit her job and fulfil a dream six months later on a journey from Morocco through Namibia. Valea did this while teaming up with new friends, Richard and Peter, crossing war torn countries and braving this new adventure not without taking risks in search for new adventures and self-discovery.

I felt while reading this book, that I was part of this adventure through the dusty and hot Sahara desert, traveling along the Congo River, and all over the African continent." Nursebookie

"Through Dust and Dreams is the true story of the author’s life after returning from a 10 day trip to Africa, and then promptly seeing an ad requesting companions on an excursion from London to Cape Town, driving the whole way. After a fleeting moment of optimism, the author applies, setting into motion the events of the book. The trip, estimated to take a year, will see her go across a continent with two strangers, experiencing life in an intense, moving way. This, as I’m sure that year was, is hard to summarise in a few short sentences, but equally, eye opening and thought provoking.

The first thing I’d like to mention about this memoir is the length. It’s a chunky read, at 660 pages on my e-reader. I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that was daunting when I first began, but this, cover to cover, is the entire journey the author went on. There’s no sequel, or need for something to come before, as it’s all contained within one book. For that, the length is wonderful. The story is able to breathe, and take exactly as long as it needs to… but yeah, I was initially stunned. For that, I really took my time with this read. I actually took a couple weeks, off and on, to read it. I’d read some, pop it down and move onto something more rapidly paced, and then come back to this when I needed down time. I’ve talked a lot about reads I’ve had since lockdown, but this I read most of it while I was still working. This was my bus read, and after a long shift, it was perfect. Dreaming about far away lands, and the journey of self-discovery was exactly what I needed. I did, as this review was coming up, came back and recapped, but while sitting on a bus, trundling along to the outskirts of the city, this was my getaway. If you’re after something you can daydream about, or enjoy for that special fact it’s true, this is something to check out. It’s pure in that aspect – non fiction allows us an unadulterated honesty, and while this isn’t all daisies and sunshine, knowing it’s real adds an atmosphere fiction can’t quite grab. I actually spent a large chunk of this read jealous – the author took this journey at an age very close to mine, but what prompted her trip wasn’t far from my own yearning to pack a bag and just go exploring. We get tied up in our lives, and forget there’s an entire world out there to be experienced. This, at its core, had me realising it’s important to get out and grab life by the horns. If you’re a traveler, if you’re an avid reader of amazing, intense true stories, or someone who wants to read something different, this needs to be on your TBR.
Another thing I’d like to talk about is the writing style. As I said earlier, it’s written as if the author is having a coffee with us, and is telling her story. Of course, as with a memoir, that’s basically what this is, but the beauty of this read comes in the stark honesty. It’s not sugar coated, and not massively internal, it’s just there. Giving events, experiences, and fact. It’s, in that regard, quite plot driven, even though that term doesn’t really work here. I love internal novels, that explore thought and the mind, but this, given its length, felt very accessible in its format. There weren’t luls, or saggy middles. When something needed to be shifted towards, the focus moved, and all in all, it’s quite the ride. If you’re a fan of movement, and action, this really works. There is thought, and there is a message at the core of the story, which we’re told very early on, but the author’s made the choice to let action speak, and I really enjoyed it. That message? We’re so caught up in ourselves, we’ve forgotten how to see. And, we’ve lost the courage to chase our dreams. This is said on the first page, and I feel set a precedent… as well as set into motion all those thoughts I mentioned earlier. The author is an entrepreneur, very adept at business, and knows when to hop onto a different venture – things I feel allowed her to take the leap and go on this journey. It’s something we can all be mindful of however, and that’s a message I can get behind.

I think, just to mention a favourite part, I loved the scene with the nun. Two of our trio need somewhere to sleep for the night and have been turned away from two other hotels in the city. They’re sent to a monastery (I think? I’m sorry, I didn’t make a note of the exacts) and the nun tells them there’s one room, but men and women cannot share a room. It’s be wholly inappropriate. There could be an exception however, but only if they’re married, as then they’re one in the eyes of God. The author then lies, and says they’re married, and the nun accepts this. Of course, it’s wrong to lie to a nun, but the pair are only going to be two separate people sharing a room, no funny business, so she doesn’t feel completely awful about her lie. For me, this scene was amusing, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the nun knew, but didn’t want anyone sleeping on the streets This moral quandary, while not intentionally funny, had me chuckling, and stuck with me. This story is full of moments like that. It’s a whirlwind, and sometimes unbelievable, but absolutely one to check out.

All in all, this memoir is a powerhouse of a story. It’s a big book, but within its pages is the trip of a lifetime. There’s infatuation, there’s lessons, and there’s everything that can only come from being somewhere far from home with total strangers. It’s inspiring, and one I’m eternally grateful I didn’t get put off from. If, while we’re all stuck inside, you need something to whisk you to far away places, check this out." Em Jackson


"Discovering yourself during an unexpected journey.
Roxana spent a ten – day trip safari trip in Africa. After her holiday, she feels unhappy with her current life and decides to quit her new job. Online she meets Richard and Peter, and together they start a journey crossing Africa from north to south, from Morocco to Namibia.
This is not the first book I read of this author, so I am familiar with her writing. 
But this book got me on a deeper level…

Each and every one of us have had that feeling of being unhappy. But most of us don’t dare to think about doing what Roxana did. 
Giving up your stability of a job, going on a journey with total strangers, and to add the difficulty, discovering a continent with not the best reputation…
Roxana takes us with her during her journey, and is not afraid to show each part of it. She is not making things more beautiful than they are. It’s generally known that Africa has its beauties, but is also dangerous in the wrong regions.

I felt part of the journey, wondering about the beauty of some places, but I was worried about the more fearful moments.
Sometimes stepping outside your comfort zone, is a great opportunity to rediscover yourself and finding out what makes you truly happy.

Of course finding yourself does not come overnight, so this long journey is just what Roxana needed to actually pinpoint what things bring her joy.
Thanks to her writing down her adventures, we get an insight of the courage Roxana had to just daring to stand up for herself and saying that the way she was spending her life, was not how she wanted her life to be.
She shows that finding yourself is possible, but you also have to dare a dive into the deep.
A story about courage, friendship and rediscovery. A true inspiration for all people who have the feeling that something is missing in their lives!" Tiziana Langone

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