In Lisa McKay’s book, Love at the Speed of Email, the themes of home, hope, passion and purpose resonate throughout her choices of dating, career and family. McKay shares poignant moments of being on the road from her childhood in Bangladesh to working in Zimbabwe and weaves her work world, writing and search for meaning into her quest for love.
McKay, like many women who are single at significant birthdays, suffers many well-meaning discussions with friends and family about her choices and martial status. One family Christmas included outrageously inappropriate family gifts from toilet paper, a too large shirt and a book on International Adoption from “my younger, married, pregnant sister.” Even her gift from her best friend (the book–Spinsters Abroad: Victorian Lady Explorers) seemed to be an indictment of her life. It seemed everyone was conspiring against McKay’s love-life or lack of it.
Challenging airport encounters with strange men in Ghana and taxi drivers asking questions about not being married does happen to women traveling alone. McKay’s choices of being polite, running away, and having an imaginary boyfriend are understandable. But the family gifts seem enough to push an unmarried thirty-one year-old off the holiday edge wondering if she will ever find a life-partner.
From McKay’s novel, there seems to be evidence that children catch wanderlust from their parents. McKay’s parents told her grandparents before their move with three young children to Bangladesh: “Don’t worry. It’s only for two years. Then we’ll be back.” They did return after twenty-one years and seven countries. McKay often seems more at home in airports than anywhere else.
McKay had a penchant for humanitarian work even as a seven-year-old, upon arriving in Bangladesh, she wonders, did “God had run out of money halfway around the world?” After a return to Africa, she asks, “Why was there so much suffering in this world? Why did humans have such a talent for violence? … If God existed, if he were paying attention, why did he often seem so slow to act and so silent? And why had I been given so much while others had so little?”
Contemplating good and evil as well career-path choices with friends, McKay wonders if “our career choices are really more influenced by a cocktail of duty, fear, and apathy, or by talent, priorities, and passion. Alternate lives, at least one or two of them, often lie within reach.” This novel is her explanation of which life she chooses and how she got to where she is today.
Her desire for understanding her purpose and her place lead her to a new online friendship with a friend of a friend named Mike, whose first letter includes this praise for McKay’s writing: “Reading your essays was a breath of fresh air to my spirit.” Their personal chronicle is revealed in the tale and includes many of their email exchanges.
The reader will discover that both Lisa and Mike are in their early thirties and full of questions and indecision about the inequalities on our planet, their preferences to do the work they love and whether they will find love and fulfillment in their work and personal lives. McKay’s questions about her faith are fully disclosed and she often asks: “How a loving, good, omnipotent God could possibly stand to hold back and watch the bad unfurl alongside the good in the wilderness of freedom and choice.”
All of this access to autonomy and self-determination as well as a good Internet connection allows Lisa and Mike’s relationship to evolve in the story. Mike’s mom had one of my favorite lines in the book: “E- dating. What comes next, an e-marriage and e-kids?”
McKay quotes Basho who says, “Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” McKay shares intimate details about her passage from an adolescent to an adult through her faith, her travels and her affairs, from a life of questions to one of happiness; reading this book you will journey with her to find home.