Read This: Whisper of the Lotus

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

Ready to travel the world...virtually? Gabrielle Yetter, one of our longtime friends, and the author of MANY books that we've shared here, has a new book out. Whisper of the Lotus is an interesting, heartfelt, and genuine read about finding your self...while exploring a place.

It's one of those books you can't put down, so fair warning for your sleep.

Yetter is a master at capturing essence of place—you'll feel as if you are right there in Cambodia with Charlotte, busy streets and all. How did we meet Gabi? She's the author of a travel guide we've published, The Definitive Guide to Moving to Southeast Asia: Cambodia. She's the real deal: a fantastic writer, consummate traveler, living abroad expert, and thoughtful interculturalist.

Her new book? Highly recommended!

Read This: Whisper of the Lotus

Former journalist Gabrielle Yetter wrote The Definitive Guide to Moving to Southeast Asia: Cambodia and The Sweet Tastes of Cambodia (a book about traditional Cambodian desserts and provincial travel). While living in Cambodia, she wrote two childrens’ books, Ogden The Fish Who Couldn’t Swim Straight and Martha the Blue Sheep, and in 2012, she co-wrote Just Go! Leave the Treadmill for a World of Adventure with her husband, Skip, based on their experiences of moving across the world. She now lives in Eastbourne on the south coast of England.

Author Gabrielle Yetter. From Read This: Whisper of the Lotus

Without further ado, the work and words of Gabi Yetter...

Please tell us about your new book...
Whisper of the Lotus is dear to my heart since it is based in Cambodia, the country I grew to love after living there almost four years. It is a book about friendship and family, love and identity, a tale about no matter how far you travel, the path will always lead you back to yourself. 

The story features a young woman named Charlotte who travels to Phnom Penh to visit her best friend and meets a mysterious elderly man on the flight. When she arrives, she discovers a land of golden temples, orange-clad monks, and kind-hearted people, then realises many things are not what they seem—including her own past that bubbles to the surface through a series of revelations.  

Throughout the book, Charlotte is on a quest that takes her through dusty back alleys and shimmering pagodas where she meets people who provide insights into her own strengths and imperfections: a sleazy café owner, a compassionate Buddhist monk, an elderly Cambodian who survived the Khmer Rouge, and a woman who reminds her of her mother. And all of them play a role in teaching her different things about herself until she learns the ultimate truth: she came to Cambodia for a reason.

I launched Whisper of the Lotus on November 9 -- Cambodian Independence Day.

What inspired you to write this book?
Writing a novel was never on my bucket list. In fact, I didn't feel I had it in me. I have written non-fiction books, children's books, and hundreds of articles for newspapers, magazines, and online sites, but never felt drawn to writing a novel.

Then, a few years ago, my husband, Skip, suggested I give it a try. He was working on a book of his own and encouraged me to consider it. I brushed him off, then discovered how ideas--like seeds-- begin to grow once they are planted. And I found myself thinking about themes. Musing about characters. Observing my surroundings more closely. Perhaps I’d give it a shot. 

One day, I was in an airport and started watching people. I noticed an elderly couple struggling at the customs desk, unable to speak English, and loaded down with heavy bags. I wondered how it would feel to arrive in a strange country, unfamiliar with the language and logistics, and deal with it alone. In that moment, I knew I wanted to write a story based around travel, airports, and travellers. It was a familiar theme in my own life since I'd spent a large chunk of it travelling. And, suddenly the idea of creating a novel became real.

Once I began to write, I fell in love with the process. I loved painting word pictures of places I knew so well and immersing myself in a world of my own imagining. It took more than four years to complete and I was fortunate in making the long list in the 2019 London TLC (The Literary Consultancy) Pen Factor writing competition.

Snce the story was inspired by my experiences in Cambodia, I plan on donating proceeds for the first 57 days to an organization named Justice and Soul that provides training for at-risk youth rescued from trafficking in Cambodia and the US. Why 57 days? You'll have to read the book to find out.

You're incredible at sharing the essence of place. What do you hope readers learn about Cambodia, from reading this book?
It's virtually impossible to capture the essence of what makes a place special, but I tried to communicate some of the smells, sights, and sounds of Cambodia as I wrote Whisper of the Lotus. More importantly, I tried to communicate how it felt to be there through the people -- their kindness, endearing childlike ways, candid openness, and lack of bitterness despite the dreadful history of the country.  For me, that was what made Cambodia so special. 

One of my characters -- SomOn, the tuk-tuk driver -- is an actual person who drove me to work every day and became our friend. I included some of his characteristics to illustrate the personality of a typical Cambodian, and also used a couple of stories about some of the amusing, touching, and quirky things he exposed us to. He, and others in the book, embody the country more than any descriptions of scenery or landscapes.

On the other extreme, Cambodia possesses the edginess of a third-world country and a political system that is corrupt and harsh. There are characters in my book who embody some of that harshness and force Charlotte to confront difficult situations. But what I hope readers learn about Cambodia is that it is a country filled with unpredictability, chaos, and beauty, and populated with some of the most charming and gentle people I've ever had the pleasure to know.

You obviously have a great deal of experience with Cambodia (and have written a guide about traveling and moving there!). What would you like people to know about living there?
When I first arrived in Cambodia, I have to say I was turned off by my first impression. Phnom Penh felt dirty, loud, edgy, and hot, and there weren't many places where I felt comfortable. Within a couple of weeks, however, these were the things I loved most about it! After all, we'd moved to Cambodia to get out of our comfort zones and figure out a new way of life. 

Living there made me feel incredibly alive. You could never take anything for granted and even little things like crossing the street or shopping in local markets provided new challenges and experiences.  What stands out most, though, is how living there changed our view on everything we'd ever known: comfort, poverty, gratitude, giving, and taking things for granted. 

In Whisper of the Lotus, Charlotte experiences many of the same sensations. Cambodia is not what she'd expected. She'd trusted her friend, Roxy, when she invited her to visit, believing she was going to a lovely place, but once she arrived, realised she was surrounded by situations that repelled and intimidated her. All those experiences  -- the good and the bad -- forced her to confront her fears and discover what was reallly important. And that is where the story takes you -- no matter how many challenges there may be, if you look them in the eye breathe, and keep a sense of humour, you'll get through them.

What's up next for you?
There's another children's book in the pipeline, Square Dog Gets Around, which was inspired by a dog I saw while house-sitting in Ireland. This story, like my other children's books, is designed to inspire children by letting them know it's okay to be different and teaching them how to realise their potential. And I'm hoping to work with the same Cambodian designers who designed the fabulous artwork for my other childrens' books.

How can readers discover more about the book?
Whisper of the Lotus is available as a paperback or ebook on Amazon at

My social media links are: 
Amazon author page
and my website