A poignant tale of connection and disconnection through travel.

Journalist Downs dedicates a trip around the world to her dying mother.

In 2010, newly married and having just quit a 10-year job as a reporter in Palm Springs, the author took a relatively low-budget trip to places her mother, who was suffering the late stages of Alzheimer's disease, had always wanted to see and others that were on her own bucket list. The first couple weeks were a sort of honeymoon, with Downs and her husband, Jason, staying in Peru at a freezing-cold hostel, facing dangers while climbing the Inca Trail, and getting attacked by mosquitoes in the Amazon rainforest. Then Jason returned to work, leaving Downs to make her way through South America, Africa, and Asia, sometimes on her own and other times with companions she met along the way—and often without internet or phone access to communicate with her family and friends. She often paid for her food and lodging by volunteering or working, sometimes teaching English and one time working as a DJ playing American country music in Uganda. When her mother died, Downs was staying at a yoga retreat in Egypt. “Word of my mother’s death,” she writes, “spreads quickly through the dozen or so long-term residents, and they rush to take on some of my pain.” She returned home for the funeral and then set off again. At multiple points, the author seems to be trying to assure herself that her travel is truly for her mother and not a form of escape. Recounting a whitewater rafting trip on the Nile, she writes, “I knew she would take chances if she had the opportunity. I have to do this, because she cannot.” Downs has a fluid, conversational writing style, zooming in to particular anecdotes that illuminate her experience rather than trying to cover the entire year. While the segments devoted to her mother and her disease are integrated rather awkwardly into the narrative, the travel sections are compelling and lively.

A poignant tale of connection and disconnection through travel.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64009-292-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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