Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd & Ann Kidd Taylor

My relationship with my mom has never been one full of warm feelings or deep understanding. It gets better as I get older and while I will never be emotionally close to my mom, I am glad for what we have today. On the other hand, I am also a mother myself and I have to admit that it’s probably one of the most difficult roles in a woman’s life. I am a daughter and a mother, and I reached out for Traveling with Pomegranates because it’s a mother-daughter memoir and I think I am having the most difficulty with coming to terms with what motherhood and daughter-hood entail.

Sue Monk Kidd is probably known to most readers as the author of The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair. That’s how I knew about her even though I have yet to read both these books. Traveling with Pomegranates is Sue’s and her daughter Ann’s story recounting their travels to Greece and France and their life in between. It starts with their first trip to Greece as Sue’s birthday present (she turns 50) and Ann’s graduation present (she graduated from college). Beginning with this trip forward, both Sue and Ann learn a lot about each other and about themselves. Ann is struggling with depression and trying to hide it from her mom even though she knows that her mom will know without ever being told. Sue is struggling with her identity, with her ageing, and with her desire to be a fiction writer. The memoir covers a few years of self-discovery and mother-daughter efforts to understand what their destinies are and where exactly it is these two women are heading.

Traveling with Pomegranates moved me on several levels, especially when I least expected it. Sue is already an accomplished writer but this memoir is Ann’s first attempt at writing and I must say that she is a very talented author. I really couldn’t tell the difference in quality between mother and daughter. And honestly, I don’t think I was supposed to. What both of these women wrote was beautiful and emotional because they both put their hearts into it. Their love for each other emanated from the pages of the book and therefore to experience their deeply emotional yet very lonely struggles was all the more heartbreaking. The best part for me was that I could identify with both of them. With Ann because we are close in age and because I also suffer from depression (even though that’s one issue I had a slight problem with, which I will elaborate on) and with Sue because I am a mother and I also struggle with my identity as a woman, mainly I don’t want to be seen as a mom only. Just like Sue, I want to be a woman, breathing, living, beautiful woman with my own goals, my own dreams, separate from those of a mother.

Besides the spiritual side, I also really liked reading about the travel part. All the Greek mythology weaved into the pages of Traveling with Pomegranates got me once again interesting in this topic and also brought on a little bit of nostalgia, as I remember being fascinated by this subject in my late teens and early twenties. Ann especially has a talent for writing about all the places they visited and all the experiences they went through caused by history of those places. I really wish I could go to Greece one day.

As I mentioned, the only problem I had was with Ann’s struggle and eventual recovery? from depression. From the way she described this malady (that’s how I see it) I knew it was genuine, as I have felt the same way countless times. What upset me was the fact that Ann either all of a sudden recovered from it after the three trips with her mom or simply stopped talking about it, as if it was a non-issue all of a sudden. It upset me because I know you can’t recover from depression simply because you get to go to Greece with your mom and maybe Ann wasn’t as truthful about it as I would have liked. The other thing might be that I am just jealous and she did conquer depression (jealous that I don’t seem to progress at all after many, many years of living with it). I guess it’s up to individual readers how they want to perceive it. It certainly didn’t stop me from enjoying this book and crying many times when reading about Sue’s and Ann’s doubts about life, spirituality and their futures. If you are a sucker for memoirs like I am, I think Traveling with Pomegranates deserves a place in your library.

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Special Thanks to Katrina A. from Wiredset for sending me this book for review.

Also check out this nice widget about Traveling with Pomegranates which includes an exclusive video of Sue and Ann: