I'm hesitant to write a review for this book, because I don't think my words will be adequate to the experience of reading the book. I've meet Melissa a few times in real life, and while I was struck by her intelligence and poise, I had no idea that so much was simmering in that brain of hers.
Global Mom tells the extraordinary story of their family, as they adapt to living in first Norway, then Versailles, stateside, then back in France, in Paris. To this point, it's really Melissa's extraordinary voice and observations that make the story: seeing her persepectives on the cultural differences (and the challenges of raising young children in each culture) was fascinating.
And then tragedy strikes. (Note: this isn't a spoiler--it's a central part of the story). That I knew the tragedy was coming because I've read some of Melissa's writings on the topic in no way made the event less poignant. Melissa's oldest son, Parker, dies in a tragic accident at age 18. And from that point on, the story is shot through with grief, and the struggle to make sense of such an earth-shattering event. No matter where her family lives after that (Munich, Hong Kong, Geneva), what they experience is not just a new location, but an extension of the landscape of grief.
More than anything, this book has me thinking about place: about how place is made up of landscape (built and natural), but also history and culture and most of all people, and the relationships among people.
And of course, I'm still thinking about some of the gorgeous prose passages. Melissa's voice is really quite astounding at times: she comes across as warm, gracious, intelligent, thoughtful, generous and deeply philosophical. Here are two of my favorite passages (if among some of the most devastating):
And as his head tipped gracefully to one side, the earth fell off its axis and began spinning strangely, drunkenly, into unchartable and inaccessible regions out of which only a God can escape, or from which only a God can rescue.
This land of major loss was uncharted terrain, a land with its own language of silence. It was something more than a country, it was its own planet with its own air pressure and gravitational pull.Other readers have parted out that there are two different parts of the story: before and after Parker's death. While this is true, the experience before his death is intimately tied up with its aftermath. Their rich family life underscores the depth of the tragedy.
After reading this book, there's a significant part of me that wishes I could provide this kind of rich international experience for my children, but honesty compels me to admit that I wouldn't reap nearly the harvest from it that Melissa has (nor would I willingly pay the price she has).
This was the best kind of book: it made me think, it made me weep, but it also made me hopeful.