Friday, September 26, 2008

Without a Map by Meredith Hall

Meredith Hall was the recipient of the $50,000 Gift of Freedom Award from A Room of her Own Foundation. Receiving this award made Without a Map possible. It is an incredible memoir – brutally honest, devastating, intoxicating, and sorrowful. Yet, it is full of wisdom and ends hopeful with Hall at peace and moving with the rhythms of the world.

At the age of 16, a pregnant Hall had her baby taken from her at the hospital. She then experienced a shunning of her friends, classmates, the entire town, and, most unfortunate, her parents. This leads Hall to lose her footing for quite awhile. There is an amazing section where she walks through foreign countries with few possessions and money. It is incredible to imagine a young, lone woman traveling by foot through certain areas including Lebanon and Syria.

Later we experience a resourceful middle-aged Hall who cares for her ailing mother, an elderly neighbor, and her two young sons. She completes her bachelor’s degree at age 44. Since this book has appeared in the major media and interviews with Hall are available online, it is no secret that she reunites with her adopted son when he is a young college student. She discovers he grew up in an abusive home of stark poverty.

Some passages of this book were difficult to read. A few pages I had to skim through, finding the material too disturbing. Twice my eyes filled with tears (including once in public!) while reading the final sections of this magnificent book. This memoir illuminates with the strength of a woman to overcome a dark journey. It has the potential to be an inspiration for many.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Rose Cafe: Love and War in Corsica by John Hanson Mitchell

This memoir captures a place and time exceptionally well. As a young college student in 1962, the American author spent six months working at the Rose Cafe on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Mitchell romantically and magically describes the landscape of the island and its residents and visitors. The eclectic group of "characters" includes the mysterious and humorous. It is a beautiful book with rhythms that I often experienced while outside in the afternoon summer sun.

This book is a discovery that I bet few, unfortunately, know about. The book jacket mentions two of Mitchell's other works that sound intriguing: Following the Sun: A Bicycle Pilgrimage from Andalusia to the Hebrides and The Wildest Place on Earth: Italian Gardens and the Invention of Wilderness. He is also the author of Walking Towards Walden and other books. What a find!