June 5th, 2012

planet

I married adventure by Osa Johnson

I picked up this book for this book club I'm kinda getting into, and then nobody read it! Which is too bad because it was a delightful book, and apparently I'm way behind to just be reading it now because it's about good Kansas people. No wait... good southeast Kansas people! There's a whole museum in Chanute about them, and it's one of the on the 8 people wonders of Kansas.

The book is written by Osa Johnson. She married Martin Johnson when she was 16 years old. He was a photographer who dreamed of traveling in the world, and had been lucky enough to go on a trip with Jack London, and was touring Kansas as the prompting of his hometown friends lecturing and showing photos of what he'd found. I have no idea what prompted these people to get married, she didn't even like him and nearly killed herself at a roller skating outing trying to prove how badass she was. Maybe that's what got him? Anyway he was nearly ten years older than her, asks her to marry him, and they get married right then without any family around to speak of.

And just like that, she ditches her whole normal future of a home life and becomes part of this pair that is determined to go to the south seas to visit cannibals and headhunters, track down lions in africa, nearly starve to save up for trips and nearly die from weird random jungle fevers or angry natives or both. It's so weird, but she tells all the stories with this "and this happened, so that was cool" sort of casualness. Her and Martin love each other dearly, he stands up for her when others are saying that these places aren't for women, she takes care of him when he's sick or confined or needs an assistant.

They never have children, but they do have a pet monkey named Kalowatt who's almost as close, and again talked about totally casually like it's no big deal to have a monkey around all the time.

It's a wholesome and hallmark-y story set in a crazy landscape. Martin & Osa are adorable, lucky, determined, and have a perfect "just go with it" attitude that makes you think their lives were easy, until she talks about the boats and safari crews it actually took to get them to these crazy places.

My only complaint is that she didn't talk enough about airplanes, from the cover of the book I thought they were pilots or something but obviously if your career starts in 1910, there's not much room for them. But still they did go flying eventually, and Osa was a pilot, despite the fact that she was allowed to solo apparently without being taught to land first, she just bounced the plane off the ground unsuccessfully a few times before one finally stuck. awesome!

And then the book suddenly ends. Martin dies in a plane crash on a commercial flight in the US, Osa is badly injured too, but we don't hear about it. The last line is literally a perky conversation, and then a news poster about the accident. She did more things, she had a show, she kept traveling, but there aren't really updates in the book, so that's too bad.

Either way, it was a fun book. Kinda long and the first half is definitely the better one but I'd recommend it, and if you like Kansas it's a must read.