Thank You to Sourcebooks for providing me with an advanced copy of Kim Dinan’s memoir, The Yellow Envelope, in exchange for an honest review.
PLOT – On paper, Kim Dinan’s life looked great. She lived in Portland, Oregon. and had a loving husband, a stable career, and was a homeowner. Essentially, Kim and her husband, Brian, were building a very good life. However, Kim longed for a different type of life. Kim convinced Brian that they needed to travel the world. He agreed to sell their home, car, and possessions to fund their travels, as long as they took a year leave of absence from work, rather than flat out quitting their jobs.
A few days before heading out on their adventure, Kim and Brian are given are surprise by their close friends, Michelle and Glenn. They are presented with a yellow envelope containing a thousand dollars, and instructions to give the money away as they see fit. They are not to stress over it, or over-think these acts of generosity, only to follow their hearts and spread a little kindness during their travels. How will the yellow envelope impact their trip? How will travel shape their lives and change their marriage?
LIKE– The concept of The Yellow Envelope is beautiful. I love the idea of how little random acts of kindness can make a big difference. Late in her memoir, Dinan tells a story about when she was in her early 20’s and working for AmeriCorps, picking up used furniture for minimum wage. She was poor and just scraping by financially, when at one of the jobs, Dinan was tipped ten dollars. The act of kindness, specifically that she was appreciated, is what stuck with Dinan. It’s in this spirit that she hopes, the yellow envelope money was received. The thousand dollars was spread out among many people, organizations, even to help feed starving animals, so none of it was an earth shattering amount given at one time, however, maybe these small acts were enough to affect change. Perhaps the intent and act of spreading kindness is enough? I’d like to think so. I’d like to think that I live in a world where people would feel inspired to commit small acts of kindness, and not feel that they couldn’t give, because it wouldn’t be “enough.”
I like that Dinan didn’t edit out her discomfort. There were many times, especially early in her travels, that she did not give away money, because of her own discomfort. For example, they meet an elderly couple who do not speak English, but who are in desperate need for new shoes. They contemplate giving money or leaving shoes at the couple’s house, even anonymously, but ultimately they cave to their own feelings of this being an awkward situation. Dinan and her husband often worry about how their gift will be perceived, although as they grow more accustomed to travel and foreign situations, this fear lessens. They focus more on their intent and less on how it could be misconstrued.
Dinan speaks about her own issues with accepting kindness. In India, she enters a rickshaw competition with two other women, and they find that their rickshaw, affectionally named “Sunny,” has a lot of mechanical problems. At one point, they ended up needing shelter late at night, in a remote area, and a man takes them in. He gives them shelter and food, even though he is clearly very poor and his sharing is taking away from his family. At another point, a man goes out of his way to get a much needed part for their rickshaw. These are strangers, and although Dinan is unfamiliar with their culture’s customs, she must accept the help. She must accept the idea that generosity between strangers can exist, and that kindness is a cross-cultural concept.
The Yellow Envelope is the right mix of travelogue and personal introspective. Beyond the cultural discomforts involved with travel and the addition of the yellow envelope, Dinan also speaks to her personal problems, including a crisis in her marriage. Through much of her memoir, I wasn’t sure if her marriage would survive the year of travel. Was getting out of their element a good idea? Dinan’s memoir is beautifully written and deeply affecting.
DISLIKE– Nothing. The Yellow Envelope is a fabulous read.
RECOMMEND- Yes! If you have wanderlust, or are feeling like you need to make a dramatic change to your life, The Yellow Envelope is a must read. My heart felt warmer from having this reading experience, which with the current political climate, is a feeling that I think a lot of people could use right now. The Yellow Envelope is a reminder that kindness is still in abundance in the world and that different cultures have different concepts of what should be valued. It’s an eye opening read.