Sue Monk Kidd has touched millions of readers with her novels The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair and with her acclaimed nonfiction. In this intimate dual memoir, she and her daughter, Ann, offer distinct perspectives as a fifty-something and a twenty-something, each on a quest to redefine herself and to rediscover each other.
Between 1998 and 2000, Sue and Ann travel throughout Greece and France. Sue, coming to grips with aging, caught in a creative vacuum, longing to reconnect with her grown daughter, struggles to enlarge a vision of swarming bees into a novel. Ann, just graduated from college, heartbroken and benumbed by the classic question about what to do with her life, grapples with a painful depression. As this modern-day Demeter and Persephone chronicle the richly symbolic and personal meaning of an array of inspiring figures and sites, they also each give voice to that most protean of connections: the bond of mother and daughter.
A wise and involving book about feminine thresholds, spiritual growth, and renewal, Traveling with Pomegranates is both a revealing self-portrait by a beloved author and her daughter, a writer in the making, and a momentous story that will resonate with women everywhere. (Image and synopsis from goodreads.com)
I think the reason I found this book so enjoyable was because I could relate to one of the women in the book. Traveling with Pomegranates is the story of a mother and daughter going through turning points in their lives (menopause and entering adulthood, respectively).
Ann, the daughter, is a recent college graduate in the beginning of the book who did not get accepted into the graduate program she wanted. From the moment I read that, I identified with her. I recently graduated from college in December, and was promptly rejected from the two graduate schools I had applied to shortly thereafter. One was a longshot, but the other school was my alma mater and I had been interviewed for the program, so I really thought I would get in. Ever since my rejection, I've felt loss and disconnected from the life I had while I was a student. Ann's rejection slid her into a depression which only a renewed sense of self could make her emerge.
Ann and Sue's travels in Greece and France and their home lives in South Carolina are chronicled in a back and forth manner between the two women as they forge new identities for themselves and their relationship between each other. As I read both of their thoughts and emotions, I thought about myself and my life, as well as my relationship with my own mom. Using their experiences, I tried to form words about to describe my own life, identity, and relationships to my family. I think this book may be a jumping off point for some of my own personal growth and development.
Another interesting thing the two women did was use divine female images as a way to bond to the world around them and seek inspirations for their own identies. Sue focuses largely on the Virgin Mary, especially the Black Madonna while Ann sought a divine trinity- the goddess Athena, the Virgin Mary, and Joan of Arc. The use of myth and religion played an integral roles in their journeys (both internal and external journeys) and it was interesting to learn more about the figures.
While I think many people will find this book boring (even I thought the middle part got to be long and redundant), anyone who can relate to either of the two women should find this an interesting and inspiring read. Because I identified with Ann, I wanted to know how she dealt with her rejection and how she moved on with her life. Like Ann, I wonder if my rejection is maybe the universe's way of telling me that neuroscience and research shouldn't be my life's goal. Maybe I'm meant to do something else. Or, maybe I just need to try harder next time...
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars