SAILING MY SHOE TO TIMBUKTU: A Writer's Adventurous Search for Family, Spirit, and Love

Joyce Thompson, Author . Harper San Francisco $22.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-053063-1

Thompson offers a stellar memoir many baby boomers can relate to: a career-oriented woman finds spiritual grace as she faces the squeeze of the "sandwich generation," simultaneously caring for children and an aging parent. Early on, Thompson offers a flashback that is a perfect metaphor for her spiritual journey: One evening her slightly drunk husband demanded that she put her sleeping baby in the crib, accusing her of "spoiling" the child. Thompson's familiar response was to bend to his will, but her child was comfortable in her lap and she was content embracing her baby. She mustered up the nerve to calmly say, "No." When the earth didn't swallow her and her husband didn't attack her, she realized that she possessed an inner strength that was ignited by the tenderness of love—an epiphany that continued to inform and guide her spiritual journey. Eventually Thompson ran away from her abusive husband, but not from her motherly or daughterly duties. She now finds herself caring for her aging mother, once a feisty Katharine Hepburn–style attorney, now a deteriorating woman with Alzheimer's. In one scene Thompson exquisitely writes about an initiation many daughters dread—the first time bathing an incontinent mother. Thompson's writing is rendered with care and polish, and includes outstanding scene work (she is an established novelist) and mature spiritual ponderings. Readers may find themselves somewhat disoriented by the brief chapters, which follow emotional and spiritual threads rather than chronological order. They should persevere—the sum of these parts is a deeply satisfying story. (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 06/30/2003
Release date: 08/01/2003
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