The typical memoir is a work of reflection; turn a mirror on the past and try to describe what you see there. Easier said than done, surely, and things might fall out of order, if we choose to grade by import as opposed to order. But what if the past we have made, or the past that has been given to us, does not bear reflection? Trauma does not lend itself to memory but unmemory.
Traveling with Ghosts by Shannon Leone Fowler begins as she is vacationing in Thailand with her fiancé when he’s stung a box jellyfish. He died in three minutes. It was an event that did not simply bisect her life – it untied it. Since she’d been a little girl, she had been fascinated by the ocean. She was midway through a PhD in Marine Biology. Now the ocean she loved had killed the man she loved. She bolted to Eastern Europe, away from the ocean, on a journey back to the ocean.
The pure power of the book comes from Fowler’s clipped and poetic prose riding the tide of a powerful storytelling voice. Rather than simply reflect what happened, Fowler refracts her story, breaking it up into compulsively readable explorations of her heart, the world in which she’s traveling, and the very human hearts she meets along the way. The pacing and plotting keep this book in the realm of a page-turner, even if the plot plays out in the human heart.
From a Croatian aquarium to a tense lunch in an Israeli café, Fowler creates a series of indelible scenes, and characters. The Israeli girls she meets on the beach in Thailand are still friends with her today, and their stories are the stuff of pure – sort of gnarly – human life. But most importantly, Fowler brings a deft, light touch to all her writing, even, no especially the tough parts. We are all haunted; by our past, our mistakes, by memory. Traveling with Ghosts by Shannon Leone Fowler will lighten the time you spend reading it and a give you the words with which to address your own refracted shattered pasts.
<a name=”ttrslf” id=” ttrslf “></a>When you hear Shannon Leone Fowler’s voice on the page, you’ll quickly recognize it in audio. She has an amazing sense of speaking directly to the point, to the issue. And though she does not mince words, we did find ourselves speaking at length about her book and her experiences. Her intricate sense of story shines through in even the short lightning round interview, which you can download from this link.
For the deep immersion in this powerfully refracted story, follow this link to download the in-depth interview, or listen below.