[The] variety leads to an inconsistency of tone: Some are lighthearted, others somber. The short ones should be longer, the longer ones shorter. But does this matter? Probably not. This is an untidy book, but a great one. In truth, this is not really travel writing in the recognized form of the genre. The reader who expects a collection of quirky anecdotes about fascinating places will be disappointed. Far & Away is not just a voyage around the world; it’s also a voyage around Andrew Solomon ... intense purposefulness is what makes this book extraordinary. Travel is usually self-serving. Solomon’s is seldom that. Hope fuels his voyages ... This is a very noble book. It’s also a very depressing one.
Solomon’s pieces occasionally read as though he is emptying his notebooks, with long, rambling quotes from a succession of interview subjects. Far more often, his prose sparkles with insights and captivating description, whether he is observing camels in Mongolia (When they lack water, their humps droop like aging bosoms. At night, they howl — an eerie sound, like the spirits of purgatory crying out') or eating his way through China.
His voice and eye are always curious, never hurried; his sentences unspool elegantly, and are sharply alive to social cadences and cultural nuance. He travels hopefully, looking not always for tragedy or strife but for moments of commonality in extreme and conflicted places ... He tries to approach this cultural immersion from as many vantages as possible, while never quite forgetting his privileged interloper status.