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Alone in Amsterdam is a unique blend of travelogue and diary. PK Engelbrecht has an uncanny way of drawing the listener into her physical journey overseas and her internal quest to find meaning and peace. We see Amsterdam through the eyes of a sensitive young artist.
The freedom of smoking weed and being alone give her the opportunity to fully feel the pain of loss while giving clarity to the possibilities of the future. Engelbrecht is funny, sardonic, and sensitive. We want to know what she is going to say next, how she is going to handle the people she meets, and if she is going to make it on time to a tour. We feel her urgency, her delight, her frustrations and, ultimately, her optimism.
Her relationships are fraught with misunderstandings, conflicts, and unfulfilled promises. She is traveling in familiar territory, but her way of describing the encounters is blatantly honest. She takes responsibility, but is quick to shift blame when she sees fit.
Amsterdam seems different as we see it through Engelbrecht’s eyes. She has a keen sense of the ordinary and the exceptional. She unravels the mystery of Rembrandt and the tragic reality of Anne Frank in her own way, which informs the listener of the writer’s personal struggles. She truly feels the pain of others and tries to find why tragedy happens and how to move forward.
What I found particularly interesting was that I found myself shouting at her when I saw her making a grave mistake. When she talks back to customs officers I was horrified. I knew the consequences she was about to face, and I wanted to protect her. Her audacity stunned me. I found myself rooting for Engelbrecht as her story began to unfold. I wanted her to overcome her sadness and disappointment. I wanted her to mend broken relationships. And I wanted her to find love. Lynne Feldman