Back in October I wrote about Amy Welborn’s new memoir, Wish You Were Here. I was very privileged to get an advanced reading copy. Now Amy announces that the book is finally available. Amy has created a new travel blog and is posting pictures of Sicily to go with each chapter.
Here’s what I said about the book in October. (I meant to write more but life happens. Right now I don’t seem to be able to grab much writing time. I’m hopeful that as everyone mends things will look up; but right now things are still a bit crazy.)
Wish You Were Here: Travels Through Loss and Hope by Amy Welborn
I feel like nothing I can say will do justice to this book. It is so intense so personal, so that at times—most of the time—it feels like eavesdropping. But it is beautiful, a treasure I am so profoundly grateful that Amy was wiling to share this journey with us.
The book is very easy to pick up and put down, which is good because it’s a book I want to nibble at rather than gulp. To swallow it all too quickly, to wolf it down as is too often my wont, would be a terrible shame. This is a journey to savor slowly. Partly because sometimes, sometimes it’s a little bitter. Mostly, though, because it is so beautiful and rich.
The short sections, each one like a cut facet on a gem, sharp and focused, jump back and forth. Now you are in Sicily, now on the other side of the Atlantic back at home. Now you are in the “present” on a curious journey through an ancient land, full of sun and shadow, sparkling ocean, vivid architecture, curiosities and personalities at every turn. Now you are wandering through the halls of grief, startled to find death just over your shoulder. Faith is everywhere, elusive, beguiling, always the end of the journey, glimpsed at every turn.
I’m trying not to be all gushy and fangirl about Wish You Were Here. Amy’s was one of the first ever blogs I read and I’ve always felt she was sort of a kindred spirit. And I remember reading what she wrote at the time of Michael’s death and her blog posts about Sicily so I sort of feel like I’m approaching the book with a very strong predisposition to love it. And maybe there are funny echoes in it for me in that I’ve never really wanted to go to Sicily very much until I married a man who is half Sicilian and then we discussed it as our dream honeymoon but couldn’t actually afford to go. So there is that layer of the emotions from my own marriage weaving throughout.
All that said, I do think its a magical (I’ve not read Didion’s book; but I can already tell you this is completely different) sort of mash up of travel memoir and a very Catholic exploration of grief. She does both genres so well but the way she slips seamlessly from one to the other is sort of breathtaking. (See, I’m gushing.) Just to do a reality check I read a chapter to my sister this evening while we were making dinner. Oh even better than I thought. The prose is lyrical but down to earth. The imagery doesn’t beat you over the head but somehow the details of every tourist stop are marshaled so that you are constantly staring death in the face. Most of all what strikes me is how faith informs everything. It doesn’t make death and grief easy, doesn’t make it go away. Just that it is the medium in which they happen.
I’m still reading, still trying to get a handle on it. Hopefully a fuller review will follow. But I won’t make any promises because, well, life happens.