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Monday, January 2, 2012

Book Review: Traveling with Pomegranates

I read  a wonderful book over the holidays: Traveling with Pomegranates, by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor.

Sue Monk Kidd is also the author of The Secret Life of Bees, which in my opinion is both an excellent book and a great movie.  She has also wrote The Mermaid Chair, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, Firstlight and When the Heart Waits.

Traveling with Pomegranates is a mother-daughter story.  It is their parallel memories taken from writing journals as they travelled together visiting scared sites through Greece and France. At the time of their travels, Sue is grappling with menopause and the transition into a new sense of self.  Ann is struggling with depression as she too tries to find a new sense of self in the transition from university student to "real life", career, marriage and independent adulthood.

Their travels alone are pretty intriguing. This is not a "lie on the beach and sip umbrella drinks vacation". Instead it is a journey through Greek mythology, feminist icons, and traditional, sometimes religious, barriers. The reader is taken on a guided tour through the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the Chapel of Joan of Arc, and the Cathedral of Notre Dame to name just a few sites.  The title of the book is derived from the mythical account of Demeter and Persephone- a mother/daughter story with a unique twist!

If you're a mother of a daughter you'll find something that touches you in this book. If you are entering or have been through menopause, I think you'll find something in this book that resonates for you. If you are struggling with career, life, partner, or power issues, I think you'll find something in this book that speaks to you. I believe it's through the honest telling of personal stories that we hear our own voice and are able to more easily interpret our thoughts. And both Sue and Ann, in my opinion, tell very honest accounts that come straight from the heart.

Both Sue and Ann struggle through transition to find their authentic self, and I think this is part of the human struggle throughout time. Perhaps it is magnified for women in the juggling act between family and career.  Sue talks about the struggles between "being" and "doing" and how difficult it is to strike the balance. Sue even realizes the necessity of finding balance from a physical health point of view.  Ann writes about the struggle between doing what makes intellectual sense, and what feels right. She realizes that much of her career goals were shaped by the dreams of what a career could bring in terms of material goals, power, and ego rather than internal happiness.

This is also a book about writing. Although The Secret Life of Bees was published prior to this book, Sue's journal entries chronicle the birth of that novel, the struggle through it's writing and it's very early publication. Given the success of that book, it's particularly interesting to read about the internal angst to arrive at it's telling. And it's inspiring from that perspective.

Although this is Ann's first book, I don't think it's her last.  Throughout their travels Ann finds her fire within and realizes that she has a voice that demands to be written. She writes about the complicated battle many women find themselves in as they struggle to not be like their mother, at the same time they do want to follow in her footsteps and continue her path. For Ann, this battle involves writing, personal career choices, and the confidence to follow her intuition. 

I don't think it's any coincidence I finished this book on January 1st 2012, a time of new beginnings and dramatic shifts. Traveling with Pomegranates is all about finding the courage to really discern your own path and then follow whatever fuels your internal fire. In my opinion, 2012 is a year to really find what is meaningful for you personally and start living that life. In, Traveling with Pomegranates, Ann quotes David Whyte as writing:
You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong
That's my wish for 2012.  Happy.. New.. Year.

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