Book reviews – Memoir

Travelling with ghosts by Shannon Leonne Fowler.   

“Fowler has turned her devastating, beautiful, honest, and personal story into something universal. Akin to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, her book will appeal to globetrotters and readers of hopeful stories chronicling grief and recovery.”
Booklist (starred review)
In the summer of 2002, Shannon Leone Fowler was backpacking with her fiancé Sean in Thailand. The couple were planning to return home after their excursion to the island of Koh Pha Ngan, but their plans were devastated when a box jellyfish – the most venomous animal in the world – wrapped itself around Sean’s legs, stinging and killing him in minutes. Rejecting the Thai authorities’ attempt to label Sean’s death as ‘drunk drowning’, Shannon accompanied his body home to his stunned family – a family to which she suddenly no longer belonged.

Shattered, untethered and alone, Shannon set out on a journey to make sense of her loss. From contemplating the silence of Auschwitz to learning the rules for sitting shiva amid daily bombings in Israel, to finding humour and creativity in Sarajevo, a city still scarred by the recent war, Shannon charts a path through sorrow towards recovery.

Traveling with Ghosts is a beautiful memorial to love and an intensely personal account of learning to live with grief. It is the story of a brave journey towards survival.

Review by Sepali de Silva

‘Travelling with Ghosts’ is a moving memoir cum travel journal by Shannon Leone Fowler. Shanon & Sean are literally in each other’s arms when Sean loses his life and what pursues are nightmarish days for any single traveller alone on a distant beach. She is offered unconditional support by two Israeli girls whose actions will leave you questioning your beliefs and practices.
As days go by her nightmare turns to profound grief which she documents with a mature understanding. Legally not a widow nor a mother who lost a child, her pain is no less, and she tries to find solace by travelling through Eastern Europe to dark places blanketed with sadness and struggle where she feels connected through sorrow at a time when there were no mobile phones or Google maps.

I needed a box of tissues with this book, but it is an excellent memoir. Not many can document their sadness as well as Shannon does. The juxtapositioning of the tenses where she places her present in the past and her past in the present paralleling her thought process gives this memoir a unique structure. The book is part narrative part travel journal by an incredibly brave person, and if you are a traveller or you are someone who has a love for marine life, or if you have lost someone you love and feel no one understands your grief you should get yourself a copy of this book. Shannon holds a PhD in Marine Biology.

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Book Reviews – Fiction

The Choice – Samantha King

Reviewed by Amber Vitharana

For fans of The Couple Next Door, I See You and He Said/She Said, The Choice is a hypnotic suspense debut from a remarkable new talent and explores the terrifying Sophie’s Choice scenario: What if you had to choose between your children?

‘Beautifully written, taut, tense and very clever.’ Claire Douglas, Sunday Times bestselling author of Last Seen Alive.

Then:  Madeleine lived for her children. She’d always believed she’d die for them too. But on the morning of her twins’ tenth birthday, her love was put to the test when a killer knocked on their door and forced her to make a devastating choice: which child should live, and which should die – her son, or her daughter?

Now:

Madeleine stands silently on the periphery of her fractured family, trying desperately to unravel why her world was so suddenly blown apart. But as memories of everything leading up to that tragic day return in agonising flashes, she begins to realise her family’s life still hangs terrifyingly in the balance…

Reviewed by Amber Vitharana

What a book!  The start was explosive – you want to know what happened to make Maddie choose between her kids and you only half believe it. But Maddie believes it, and so you have no choice but to follow her thoughts and ramblings, from happy beginnings to domestic abuse, from best friend to adultress.  When the truth is finally revealed or rather unravels,  you whoop with joy and relief and confusion. Then, of course, it’s a roller-coaster ride to the end –  you’re never quite sure what will come next, and at some point you start skipping descriptions, hurtling towards the end.

When you finish, you’re a little numb from the excess of emotions that you’ve been forced to endure.

A roller coaster of a book  – I loved it.

The only fault I feel is that she drags out the story a bit and at some point, the writing seems to get in the way of the storytelling.

Similar books –  Girl on the Train, Gone Girl

This is a top 10 Amazon bestseller.

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