Five women honor their friend’s last request with a cross-country adventure.
Hypertasker attorney Katherine Givin’s life changes forever when she receives a brown paper-wrapped package containing a familiar pair of red high-top sneakers. Into these shoes are packed the ashes of her oldest friend—the remarkable Annie Freeman. Before dying from ovarian cancer, Annie planned her own “traveling funeral” with designated stops for the scattering of her remains. She leaves it to Katherine to assemble her closest friends to act as pallbearers for her last hurrah. Knowing that funerals are for the living, Annie intends for Katherine, Jill, Laura, Rebecca and her saintly hospice nurse Marie (who barely know each other) to take a break from their responsibilities to celebrate life and get to know each other. The trip takes the ladies to the places that mattered most to Annie: the Florida Keys, rural New Mexico, New York City. The book is also something of a metaphysical detective story, as the women learn more about Annie in each location, including the long-held secret identity of the man who fathered her two grown sons. Along the way, the fast friends talk, drink, dance, skinny dip in an icy lake and talk a lot more. They also face their own tragedies and realize that it is never too late to dramatically transform their lives for the better. These women warriors are a funny and engaging bunch, but so similarly wise and articulate that it is sometimes difficult to differentiate them. Filled with uplifting messages of the healing power of both laughter and grief, Radish’s novel (Dancing Naked at the Edge of Dawn, 2004, etc.) ultimately sags from too much proselytizing at the expense of the story.
A life-affirming depiction of female bonding that’s often overblown and tiresome.