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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Snippets of Wisdom from Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild”

This #1 New York Times bestseller received so much praise from readers all over the world.

Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, ‘Wild’ powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

A true story that portrays Cheryl Strayed’s quest to make peace with herself and her daring adventure on the Pacific Crest Trail is guaranteed to change your life. Take a look at some of these beautiful quotes from the book.


“The universe, I’d learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back.”


“The father’s job is to teach his children how to be warriors, to give them the confidence to get on the horse to ride into battle when it’s necessary to do so. If you don’t get that from your father, you have to teach yourself.”


“I was a terrible believer in things,but I was also a terrible nonbeliever in things. I was as searching as I was skeptical. I didn’t know where to put my faith, or if there was such a place, or even what the word faith meant, in all of it’s complexity. Everything seemed to be possibly potent and possibly fake.”


“[Books] were the world I could lose myself in when the one I was actually living in became too lonely or harsh or difficult to bear.”

― Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

“But I wasn’t out here to keep myself from having to say I am not afraid. I’d come, I realized, to stare that fear down, to stare everything down, really—all that I’d done to myself and all that had been done to me.”

 

There is no doubting the fact that this wonderful memoir will be loved and treasured for generations to come. We hope you are as convinced as we are!

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail- Cheryl StrayedClick here to browse “Wild” on our Web store.                                                                                                              Get your copy while stocks last!

BOOKS ABOUT BOOKS: Novels That Celebrate the Power of Fiction

 

  • The End of your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe 

“We’re all in the end-of-your-life book-club, whether we acknowledge it or not; each book we read may well be the last, each conversation the final one.”

An inspirational memoir of a mother and son and the shared love for reading. “What are you reading?” is the question Will asks his mother, sitting in a hospital ward, days after finding out that she has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The pair engage in deeply personal and heart rending conversations over the two years that follow.

“Reading isn’t the opposite of doing, it’s the opposite of dying.”

Their mutual passion for reading and the books that they read become the heart of their dialogue. This moving and emotional novel thematically explores the powerful influence of books and the magical cure that fiction can bring in times of discomfort and uncertainty. Will and his mother talk about books that range from classics to mystery, poetry and spirituality. The End of Your Life Book Club is a profoundly  moving novel that is not necessarily depressing, despite the themes of anxiety, loss and death.


When they read, they aren’t a sick person and a well person, but a mother and a son taking a journey together. The result is a moving tale of loss that is also a joyful, and often humorous, celebration of life: Will’s love letter to his mother, and theirs to the printed page. – Book Description



“Books are the most powerful tool in the human arsenal, that reading all kinds of books, in whatever format you choose – electronic (even though that wasn’t for her) or printed, or audio – is the grandest entertainment, and also is how you take part in human conversation.”

This book is much loved among our readers and is highly recommended for fans of realistic, contemporary and literary fiction.

‘A tender, moving and honest portrayal of the precious relationship between a mother and son- an ode to that beautiful thing called love.” – Cecilia Ahern

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  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 

This life-changing literary fiction novel by #1 Bestselling author Markus Zusak is bound to remain etched in our readers’ minds long after they read it. The Book Thief explores the life of Liesel Meminger and how far she goes to steal books to quench her passion for reading. She transforms the lives around her with the books she reads and is the ideal portrayal of courage and bravery during the dreadful times of the Holocaust.

Another feature that sets this book apart is that it is narrated by Death- the omnicient narrator who tells us the story of  the life of Liesel Meminger and her new found family.

“He was the crazy one who had painted himself black and defeated the world.

She was the book thief without the words.

Trust me, though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like rain.”


 

Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist–books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau. – Book Description

 

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  • The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

A delightful, bittersweet tale about the distance one man will travel for the sake of love and friendship.


 

The Little Paris Bookshop- Nina George Monsieur Perdu calls himself a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal through literature is himself; he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter, which he has never opened.

“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only…A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that’s how I sell books.”

After Perdu is finally tempted to read the letter, he hauls anchor and departs on a mission to the south of France, hoping to make peace with his loss and discover the end of the story. Joined by a bestselling but blocked author and a lovelorn Italian chef, Perdu travels along the country’s rivers, dispensing his wisdom and his books, showing that the literary world can take the human soul on a journey to heal itself.

Internationally bestselling and filled with warmth and adventure, The Little Paris Bookshop is a love letter to books, meant for anyone who believes in the power of stories to shape people’s lives. – Book Description

 


Yet another bestselling novel on the power of books. The Little Paris Bookshop shows the therapeutic influence of reading a good book. The novel also gives us a glimpse of French culture, people and literature as never observed before.

This is an ideal read for readers of any age- the perfect book to immerse yourself in, owing to its beautifully written narrative and memorable characters.

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  • What We See When We Read By  Peter Mendelsund 

A gorgeously unique, fully illustrated exploration into the What We See When We Read By PETER MENDELSUNDphenomenology of reading—how we visualize images from reading works of literature.

What do we see when we read? Did Tolstoy really describe Anna Karenina? Did Melville ever really tell us what, exactly, Ishmael looked like? The collection of fragmented images on a page—a graceful ear there, a stray curl, a hat positioned just so—and other clues and signifiers helps us to create an image of a character. But in fact our sense that we know a character intimately has little to do with our ability to concretely picture our beloved—or reviled—literary figures. In this remarkable work of nonfiction, Knopf’s Associate Art Director Peter Mendelsund combines his profession, as an award-winning designer; his first career, as a classically trained pianist; and his first love, literature—he considers himself first and foremost as a reader—into what is sure to be one of the most provocative and unusual investigations into how we understand the act of reading. – Book Description


 

Praise:

“A deconstruction of the visual experience of reading, a heady mixture of philosophy and neuropsychology. . . . Peter Mendelsund is astonishingly good at what he does.” —The Rumpus

“Amazing. . . . Sparkling with verbal as well as visual wit and the personable exhilaration of one of the best conversations you’ve ever had, What We See When We Read opens one’s eyes to that special brand of blindness which makes the vividness of fiction possible. It reads as if the ghost of Italo Calvino audited Vladimir Nabokov’s literature class and wrote his final paper with the help of Alvin Lustig and the Radiolab guys.” —Chris Ware, author of Building Stories

“Intriguing. . . . A truly remarkable book.” —Coolhunting.com
 
“A delightful treat for the avid reader. . . . [A] topsy-turvily illustrated marvel. . . . [Mendelsund] maps the dreamscape of reading to show us how the mirage dissolves under close scrutiny but its memory still burns brilliant. What a tangible magic books are!” —Shelf Awareness


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