Cover image for Dear exile : the true story of two friends separated (for a year) by an ocean
Dear exile : the true story of two friends separated (for a year) by an ocean
Liftin, Hilary.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Vintage Books, 1999.
Physical Description:
203 pages ; 21 cm.
General Note:
"A Vintage departures original"--T.p. verso.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DT434.R36 L54 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
DT434.R36 L54 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



A funny and moving story told through the letters of two women nurturing a friendship as they are separated by distance, experience, and time.

Close friends and former college roommates, Hilary Liftin and Kate Montgomery promised to write when Kate's Peace Corps assignment took her to Africa.nbsp;nbsp;Over the course of a single year, they exchanged an offbeat and moving series of letters from rural Kenya to New York City and back again.

Kate, an idealistic teacher, meets unexpected realities ranging from poisonous snakes and vengeful cows to more serious hazards: a lack of money for education; a student body in revolt.nbsp;nbsp;Hilary, braving the singles scene in Manhattan, confronts her own realities, from unworthy suitors to job anxiety and first apartment woes.nbsp;nbsp;Their correspondence tells--with humor, warmth, and vivid personal detail--the story of two young women navigating their twenties in very different ways, and of the very special friendships we are sometimes lucky enough to find.

Author Notes

Hilary Liftin is a ghostwriter/collaborator specializing in celebrity memoir. She was born in New York City in 1969 and is a graduate of Yale University. She worked for Houghton Mifflin, Barnes &, and Time Warner Books (now Hachette) in the areas of editorial, marketing, and business development. Since 2006, she has been a full-time writer. Her celebrity memoirs includes Stori Telling by Tori Spelling, which became a New York Times nonfiction bestseller and won the 2009 Bravo A-List Award for Best Celebrity Autobiography, Miles to Go by Miley Cyrus, High on Arrival by Mackenzie Phillips, and It's All Too Much by Peter Walsh. She and co-author Kate Montgomery wrote Dear Exile. Candy and Me: A Love Story is her own memoir. She and James Patterson are co-authors the bestseller, $10,000,000 Marriage Proposal.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ignore the maudlin subtitle and reserve an evening for this book. Dear Exile is an exchange of letters between best friends--Hilary, a young professional in New York City, and Kate, a newly married Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya. Hilary learns to live independently, to discern lust from love, and to deal with an unbalanced neighbor as she starts her career and social life. Kate battles malaria, student riots, and the language barrier as she and her husband begin teaching at a large, rural, Kenyan high school. Dealing with such different cultures and daily routines could have strained the relationship and, thus, the letters, but the two friends are remarkable correspondents. The well-written, eloquent letters resemble journal entries and offer hefty glimpses of both women's lives that carry the story all the way to Kate's return to the States. In the age of e-mail, it is nice to see a relationship strong enough to be sustained through real mail. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)0375703675Ellie Barta-Moran

Publisher's Weekly Review

One woman has the privilege of a happy, secure marriage while confronting the poverty of a Third World country. The other enjoys the luxuries of a big American city while struggling to find romantic happiness. In this humorous, touching, real-as-daylight collection of letters former college roommates Liftin and Montgomery exchanged during their year apart, we see the support and humor two 20-something women can offer each other as they move down disparate paths. In the small Kenyan town where she and her husband are spending 12 months as Peace Corps volunteers, Montgomery realizes that, although she can gamely adjust to eating rancid goat stew, living with fist-sized spiders and having her house exorcised of genies, the tasks of caning students until they bleed and teaching them to "sit down and shut up" while their headmaster uses their textbook money to buy himself a new pickup truck are beyond her limits of cultural assimilation. Meanwhile, back in New York City, Liftin tackles her own obstacles, including finding an apartment in Manhattan, surviving the embarrassing loss of her "cybervirginity," enduring the threats of a paranoid neighbor and recovering from the pain of unreciprocated love. Though Liftin's problems can pale in comparison to Montgomery's, the duo's correspondence makes it clear that their relationship has thrived precisely because of their unconditional recognition of the immediacy and importance of each other's travails. Many women readers will be reminded of their own intense college and postcollege friendships, and may be inspired to try to reconnect with lost friends. This is a smoothly sewn book that appeals on several levels: as engaging travel literature, as a witty exploration of modern women's lives and as a testament to the power and blessing of friendship. Agent, Cindy Klein Roche. Author tour. (May) FYI: There will be a Web site devoted to Dear Exile, at (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

YA-College roommates Kate Montgomery and Hilary Liftin went in different directions after they graduated. Kate married and went to Kenya with her husband to teach with the Peace Corps, while Hilary attempted to conquer Manhattan. This book consists of their letters during the year they were separated. Kate's letters were full of life in Africa-the heat and disease, the lack of school supplies where she taught, the absence of personal and public amenities, and the political machinations of local authorities. Hilary wrote about the snow, the difficulties of finding a place to live, her attempt at a career that was never fully described, her family's complicated relationships, and her social life (or lack thereof). These two young women maintained their friendship and found comfort and sustenance in the letters they exchanged. For young adults, the appeal of this book lies in the contrasts of life in Kenya versus life in the Big Apple, in the importance of an enduring friendship, and in seeing the challenges that young people are apt to face as they make their way in the world.-Pamela B. Rearden, Centreville Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Kwale, May 31 Dear Hilary, This business of having to write letters to keep up friendships definitely separates the wheat from the chaff. You are the wheat. (That would be the good part?) Our new neighbor, Mwanamisi, came over last night to show me how to make coconut rice, wali wa nazi . Kate, you say, but you already know how to make coconut rice! Yes, I say, but I don't know how to make friends. So David and I were rushing around trying to make reality match what we had probably said in Kiswahili. (I think we said we'd 'already' cleaned the rice and we 'were doing' laundry.) Mwanamisi arrived midway through the coconut-milk-making process and was chatting with us about how to cook it really well, soft and sweet. As far as I could tell, she was complimenting me on what I had done so far, except there was one little part that I didn't catch, and her tone was less spunky, so I figured I probably didn't put enough salt in or something. But, all in all, I was pretty excited at not being totally incompetent at cooking. Later, I checked on that verb to figure out what I'd done wrong. Here's what my dictionary said about it. (I mean, I just " haribu "-ed it--how bad could it be, right?) " kuharibu : v. injure, destroy, spoil, damage, ruin, demoralize, spoil work, break up an expedition, devastate a country, cause miscarriage, pervert, corrupt." That's what I did to the rice. Good thing we like potatoes, eh? Love, Kate New York City, December 19th Dear Kate, I have obeyed my rules and leapt empty-handed into the void. Much as I try to explain to myself that I am in transition and that everything will turn out fine, I'm hardly the happy camper we remember. I'm living at my dad's now. My eyelid has had a twitch ever since I moved in here. It's a delicate fluttering twitch that others don't seem to see, but to me it feels like there's a bird in my head beating itself against the window of my eye. So right now I hardly recognize myself. I wake up in a strange apartment. I hide away my bed and all signs of me. I commute out of the city--away from all my friends and the places I know--to work at a sterile office at an ill-defined new job in a big, generic office building on a highway in Westchester. I'm just waiting: waiting to accumulate a foundation of knowledge that will get me the right job; waiting to get my own apartment so I can make noise and be a person; waiting to hail a cab and smile at the person getting out and see that stranger again and again. Most of all right now, I can't wait to live alone. The finances of buying an apartment are impossible, but I'm willing to make adjustments. No long distance service, for example, no food on weekdays, drugstore makeup, factory-second panty hose, found art. I can't wait to acquire "homeowner's insurance." I want to have my stereo going when I fall asleep. I want all the messages to be for me. I want to bring home strangers and store their body parts in my freezer. I want to polyurethane floors and leave the toilet seat up (Oh wait, I'm a girl.) and throw away all the plastic grocery bags, which wouldn't even accumulate anyway since I don't shop. I want the shower to be a hundred percent available. I want to have parties and not clean up. Oh, and how much do I miss you? Let me count the ways: I miss you like the plague; I miss you because you understand everything I say and because for all I know when I say I see blue everyone else might see green but I'm pretty sure you see blue; I miss you because when you get back you're going to be really different and dirty; I miss you because you are not coming to my Christmas party; I miss you because you are speaking Kiswahili and I can't and I'm afraid you'll never come home; I miss you as often as I check my voice mail (which is like every minute); I miss you because I don't trust anyone else's sanity (except maybe my brother's); I miss you more than I miss all my stored belongings and with a force that is just a tiny bit less than my desire to find a lifetime companion; I miss you because the park is covered in snow and I haven't been there yet; I miss you because I think you love me unconditionally and I definitely do you. This turned into a love letter, is that so wrong? Goodbye my dirty friend, goodbye, Hilary Excerpted from Dear Exile: The True Story of Two Friends Separated (for a Year) by an Ocean by Hilary Liftin, Kate Montgomery All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.