Reposted review of Mousetrapped: A Year and a Bit in Orlando, Florida– Irish lass works near Disney

Here’s a reposted book review from my Epinions days about an Irish woman who traveled to Orlando, Florida to work at the Swan and Dolphin resort.  I’m reposting it to keep it from being lost to the Internet hinterlands.  Since this book is somewhat about travel, I’m posting it here instead of on my main blog.

  • Irish girl meets life in Orlando, Florida…

    Review by knotheadusc
     in Books, Music, Hotels & Travel
      October, 23 2011
Pros: Basically entertaining and interesting.  I like Howard’s writing style.
    • Cons: Somewhat misleading title.  Long-winded beginning.
      God bless the Kindle.  It’s introduced me to all sorts of new writers, including one Catherine Ryan Howard, an Irish lass who decided to ditch her homeland for a year in sunny Orlando, Florida and then chronicle her time in an e-book called Mousetrapped: A Year and a Bit in Orlando, Florida.  Howard published her book in January of 2011 and I read it over the course of a very pleasant Sunday spent in bed.

      The premise 

      Catherine Ryan Howard writes that she had always fancied herself a famous virologist, in part, owing to the books and movies that came out about biological terrorism in the 1990s.  Alas, she lacked the grades and the tenacity to pursue her dreams of scientific glory.  As a young woman in Ireland, she was attempting to launch into adulthood in fits and starts that included a very brief stint in university and some time in the Netherlands.  When she realized she wasn’t getting anywhere in her quest for independence, Howard did what so many others before her have done.  She went to Disney World.

      Okay… so actually, Howard did not go to Disney World.  She went to the Swan and Dolphin resort in Orlando, which is supposedly very close to Mickey Mouse’s fabled empire.  Curiously, Howard refers to the resort as the Duck and Tuna, which I’m guessing she does to avoid litigation.  In any case, Mousetrapped is somewhat misleadingly titled, since Howard doesn’t actually work for Disney on her J-1 visa.  Since I don’t care that much about Disney, I wasn’t too upset about the slightly misnamed book.  I got caught up in her story, anyway.  I could sort of relate to it on several levels.

      Life in the USA

      In witty prose, Catherine Ryan Howard explains how she turned up at her new place of employment, hoping to meet the very eager recruiter who had been corresponding with her about her new job.  In true American corporate style, Howard’s recruiter turned out to be far less enthusiastic than she seemed to be in writing.  Howard describes how she is given a free hotel room for the first few days while she finds a new place to live, applies for a Social Security card, and figures out the logistics of living without benefit of a car.

      Howard takes an overpriced apartment at a complex within walking distance of her place of employment.  She writes of having to do two hour walking commutes to her job in Florida heat until she finally makes friends with a German who has a car.  Howard also writes of temporarily sharing her apartment with other women from Kazakhstan and the Philippines with varying levels of success.  Before too long, it becomes clear that Howard needs to get a car.  A car would allow her to run errands, take cheaper housing, and hang out with a different crowd.  But first, she has to learn how to drive.  Coming from Ireland, where public transportation is apparently plentiful, the author has never needed to drive before.  So readers get to learn how an Irish woman learns how to drive, buys a car, and gets an American driver’s license… not necessarily in that order.

      And then there’s work.  Curiously, Howard doesn’t write a lot of funny stories about the guests she meets or cross-cultural miscommunications.  In fact, she doesn’t have that much at all to say about her actual job, except that she manages to be “promoted” to a job in laundry.  Howard implies that the promotion, which came with a minimal pay raise, was actually intended to get her out of some manager’s hair.  She doesn’t have much to say about working in laundry, except to share a rather gross vomit story and tell her readers that she’s not cut out to work in a laundry.

      My thoughts

      For the most part, I enjoyed this book.  Catherine Ryan Howard seems very likeable and is often funny and witty.  I identified with her story, since when I was in my 20s, I went to Armenia to be a Peace Corps Volunteer.  It’s not quite the same.  The Peace Corps gave me a place to live and a job to do and I wasn’t allowed to drive.  On the other hand, as time went on, I found myself having to arrange things to my liking.  That included finding other things to do, making friends, and yes, finding better housing.  And those were things I had to do on my own in a foreign country.  I could relate to Howard’s plight, trying to make things work somewhere new.  In fact, knowing how dismal many American public transportation systems are, especially when compared to Europe’s, I kind of empathized with her.  I can’t imagine trying to get by without a car in so many places in the United States.

      My only quibbles about this book have to do with its beginning.  Howard is a bit long-winded in her description of how she ended up in Florida.  The back story really needs to be edited a bit.  When an author writes “bear with me” on more than one occasion, that’s a sign that a story is too long.  I also wasn’t all that interested in Howard’s anecdotes about visiting the Kennedy Space Center.  In my opinion, one story about satisfying her interest in the U.S. space program would have sufficed.  But that’s just me.


      This book is not really that much about Disney, though Howard did visit there a couple of times (and paid full admission because she was not an employee).  Don’t be misled into thinking you’ll get any cute Disney stories.  What this book is really about is a young woman trying to launch and getting to know a new place.  If you like that kind of story, this book might be worth your while.



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