Jennifer Coburn has always been terrified of dying young. So she decides to save up and drop everything to travel with her daughter, Katie, on a whirlwind European adventure before it’s too late. Even though her husband can’t join them, even though she’s nervous about the journey, and even though she’s perfectly healthy, Jennifer is determined to jam her daughter’s mental photo album with memories—just in case.
From the cafés of Paris to the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Jennifer and Katie take on Europe one city at a time, united by their desire to see the world and spend precious time together. In this heartwarming generational love story, Jennifer reveals how their adventures helped vanquish her fear of dying…for the sake of living.
I was given a copy of this book from the Author, Jennifer Coburn, in exchange for an honest review.
First off, I have to say, this isn’t my normal read. It is a memoir of the Author and her daughter Katie’s trips to various places and also about Jennifer’s journey to find herself. When it was first brought to my attention, my first response was “I’m sorry this isn’t my typical read, but thank you for asking!”. Then Jennifer mentioned what it was about and it hit pretty close to home, so I found myself saying “Yes”.
This isn’t just a memoir of a mother and daughter’s travels…this is one about Jennifer’s childhood. One that included a hippy, eccentric father who died from Cancer when she was only in college.
Losing him left her in a state of shock, guilt, fear and paranoia. The fear of dying and leaving Katie alone in this world to carry on without her, plagued her constantly and she wanted to create memories that would last a lifetime, long after she’d passed.
The book follows them on 4 separate trips.
- Paris and London
- Amsterdam and Paris
Along the way, we see not only how Katie has grown, but more so how much Jennifer has. When it first begins, she is the Itinerary Queen. She has plans all laid out, where to go, what to see. Katie teaches her to let go and go with the flow. Each trip, she relaxes more and more.
We also get to hear about her father. How he was when she was little, her parents divorce, his music career and finally his sickness and death. Amazing enough, Jennifer Coburn knew how much to give us of each moment, to get her story told without us becoming too saddened to appreciate the humor in many of the things that happened along the way.
My absolute favorite trip was Amsterdam. Not only for the flippin’ HILARIOUS “sometimes you just gotta swim through it” moment, but also because you knew she’d finally come full circle and to terms with her father and with herself.
My Final Thoughts: This was not an easy book for me to read. Not because it isn’t my “normal” read, but because of the similarities to my own life. My father passed away from cancer when I was 14 yrs old. When you are young and lose a parent, I think it’s almost inevitable to have the fear and paranoia of leaving your own child. You never want them to experience the feelings of loss and abandonment that losing a parent can cause. So you are cautious. TOO cautious. You do everything perfect, in hopes that death will pass you by until at very least your children are thriving adults with families of their own. Yes, most parents take great care to avoid the same fate, but it’s more than that. We stop living for fear of dying. And even then…we still hear the imaginary clock ticking till our deaths. We plan for it. Hell I’m always telling my kids “If anything should happen to me…” because I never want there to be things left unsaid or them unprepared, even though I KNOW there is no way to prepare them for that kind of loss!!
But reading this book enlightened me. I know I need to start trying to live in the moment and not in the what if. It won’t be easy, but I’m going to try very hard because I don’t want the legacy of my life, being about my death, long before I die. So thank you Jennifer Coburn for opening up my eyes, giving me some things to put on my bucket list(I know..I’m being punny) and for allowing me to laugh and share in your experiences with Katie. It was one hell of a trip. ♥
*NOTE: Because this was not a work of fiction, I’ve had to rate it differently. Therefore I’m only going to score it on Style, Threshold Quality and Addictiveness. However, I’m going to replace the Plot and Characterization points with “Realistic and Relatable” writing. (When I score I’ll give my description.)
- Realistic Writing: 10 – I didn’t feel the author embellished the story to make it funnier or to draw out other emotions with fake means. If she did, it was an amazing job and would deserve a 10 for being able to do it so realistically.
- Relatable Writing: 9.5 – For anyone who has lost a parent or who has taken a trip with their kid/or has wanted to, this is a great read. You’ll see yourself or someone else in the adventures they have!
- Style – 8: The writing was great. It flowed nicely and was a perfect fit for the genre/topic. However it won’t be going on my favorites.
- Threshold Quality – 7: Although I had some eye opening moments, I have to say I probably won’t read more along these lines anytime soon.
- Addictiveness – 6: When I was reading it, I was really into it. But when I put it down, I wouldn’t pick it up again for days, sometimes a week or more.
Now could some of these have been influenced because of my own experiences and not wanting to face some things…possibly. I won’t say it couldn’t be. I also can’t honestly say the genre doesn’t have some influence over the last two scores. What I CAN say is…if you enjoy memoirs/non-fiction, then I REALLY think you’ll enjoy this book.
Total – 40.5