The Book of Wanderings: A Mother-Daughter Pilgrimage
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To a mother and daughter on an illuminating pilgrimage, this is what the desert said: Carry only what you need. Burn what can't be saved. Leave the remnants as an offering.
When Kimberly Meyer gave birth to her first daughter, Ellie, during her senior year of college, the bohemian life of exploration she had once imagined for herself was lost in the responsibilities of single motherhood. For years, both mother and daughter were haunted by how Ellie came into being-Kimberly through a restless ache for the world beyond, Ellie through a fear of abandonment.
Longing to bond with Ellie, now a college student, and longing, too, to rediscover herself, Kimberly sets off with her daughter on a quest for meaning across the globe. Leaving behind the rhythms of ordinary life in Houston, Texas, they dedicate a summer to retracing the footsteps of Felix Fabri, a medieval Dominican friar whose written account of his travels resonates with Kimberly. Their mother-daughter pilgrimage takes them to exotic destinations infused with mystery, spirituality, and rich history-from Venice to the Mediterranean through Greece and partitioned Cyprus, to Israel and across the Sinai Desert with Bedouin guides, to the Palestinian territories and to Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt.
In spare and gorgeous prose, The Book of Wanderings tells the story of Kimberly and Ellie's journey, and of the intimate, lasting bond they forge along the way. A meditation on stripping away the distractions, on simplicity, on how to live, this is a vibrant memoir with the power to both transport readers to far-off lands and to bring them in closer connection with themselves. It will appeal to anyone who has contemplated the road not taken, who has experienced the gnawing feeling that there is something more, who has faced the void-of offspring leaving, of mortality looming, of searching for someplace that feels, finally, like home.
would have to wait in lines—ferry lines, passport lines, security lines, lines for food, lines to see the Holy Sepulcher, which we never did. Inevitably, the bureaucracy itself or the inefficiency of those in charge or the selfishness of others trying to get ahead would become too overwhelming for Ellie. She’d roll her eyes and stamp her foot and huff, totally exasperated. On the bus to Eilat across the Negev, we’d even joked together about the ideal job for her: line monitor. But a strange
my mind, though perhaps I should have known to be prepared for the possibility. “Finally, there is among all the occupations of seafarers one which, albeit loathsome, is yet very common, daily, and necessary—I mean the hunting and catching of lice and vermin,” Fabri wrote. “Unless a man spends several hours in this work when he is on a pilgrimage, he will have but unquiet slumbers.” Luckily, sleepy Methoni with its two or three bougainvillea-draped tavernas and its bakery and its grocery store
the field. Some had rolled the sleeves of their vestments up to their elbows, and they all stood planted, legs apart, on the limestone plaza staring straight ahead. As they did every Friday, they were awaiting the appointed time of three o’clock, crucifixion hour, when they would lead those pilgrims who wished to follow—Ellie and me among them on this blistering day—along the Via Dolorosa, Jesus’s path through the city to his execution on Golgotha, meaning Place of the Skull, and his burial in
at least to tell him how overwhelmed I felt. But it was all too much to explain—the bitter man with a face lined like the Judean hills, the broadsides in Mea Shearim, the merchants in Hebron, the nets for catching trash. Instead what I kept saying was “I don’t know why I’m doing this. I don’t know why I am here. I don’t know why I came,” and though he tried to sympathize and be encouraging, he no longer said as forcefully as he had before, “You’re supposed to be doing this.” Terry was
death and resurrection, the Virgin Mary returned every day to all those places “wherein our redemption was wrought. Though she was in the spirit,” Fabri elaborates, “yet as long as she lived in the flesh she was moved by fleshly feelings, and therefore was refreshed by visiting those places, and was daily inflamed with fresh feelings of love, all the more powerfully the more she was illuminated within by divine visitations.” The Virgin Mary lived fourteen years after her son’s ascension, “which