In the summer of 2002, Shannon Leone Fowler, a twenty-eight-year-old marine biologist, was backpacking with her fiance and love of her life, Sean. Read more...
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In the summer of 2002, Shannon Leone Fowler, a twenty-eight-year-old marine biologist, was backpacking with her fiance and love of her life, Sean. Sean was a tall, blue-eyed, warmhearted Australian, and he and Shannon planned to return to Australia after their excursion to Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand. Their plans, however, were devastatingly derailed when a box jellyfish--the most venomous animal in the world--wrapped around Sean's leg, stinging and killing him in a matter of minutes as Shannon helplessly watched. Rejecting the Thai authorities attempt to label Sean's death a "drunk drowning," Shannon ferried his body home to his stunned family--a family to which she suddenly no longer belonged.
Shattered and untethered, Shannon's life paused indefinitely so that she could travel around the world to find healing. Travel had forged her relationship with Sean, and she hoped it could also aid in processing his death. Though Sean wasn't with Shannon, he was everywhere she went--among the places she visited were Oświęcim, Poland (the site of Auschwitz); war-torn Israel; shelled-out Bosnia; poverty-stricken Romania; and finally to Barcelona, where she first met Sean years before. Ultimately, Shannon had to confront the ocean after her life's first great love took her second great love away.
Cheryl Strayed's Wild meets Helen Macdonald's H Is for Hawk in this beautiful, profoundly moving memorial to those we have lost on our journeys and the unexpected ways their presence echoes in all places--and voyages--big and small.
From our buyer, Erin Crutchfield: "This is an amazing memoir from a debut author. After her Fiancé Sean’s death in 2002 she processes her grief by traveling. She kept a journal and that’s what she developed this memoir from. It’s very raw and emotional. The chapters bounce back and forth chronicling the time she spent with Sean leading up to his death and what happened afterwards but also recounts her travels. She travels to war torn grief stricken locations at times facing her grief and other times trying to avoid it."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-11-28
- Reviewer: Staff
Fowler, a lover of the ocean and marine life from an early age who trained as a marine biologist, was devastated when her fiancé was killed by a jellyfish while they were on vacation in Thailand. Fowlers moving account traces her grief following the accident. Unable to face the ocean, Fowler forced herself back into the world, traveling for four months and visiting 10 countries off the usual tourist routes. She spent time with the two Israeli women who supported her throughout the ordeal in Thailand; she ventures to war-ravaged Sarajevo. Fowler notes that, After Israel and Bosnia, Croatia seemed safe and peaceful and mellow. Wherever she travels, however, memories of her fiancé are with her, and she continues to come to terms with his death: she learns of other numerous deathsshe never is able to determine how manyfrom the same deadly species of jellyfish near where her fiancé died. Fowler notes that there were no warnings regarding the poisonous jellyfish, and officials initially attempted to claim his death was caused by drunkenness. This is nicely written and informative journey on the path to healing. (Feb.)
An odyssey to recovery
Grief, grit, love, loss, world travel and the deadly sting of a box jellyfish all have a place in Shannon Leone Fowler’s intensely personal and appealing memoir, Traveling with Ghosts. Bring along a world map, set aside everything you know about healing from heartbreaking loss, and have yourself an unforgettable read.
In 1999, Fowler was a 24-year-old Californian backpacker captivated by the sea, traveling, teaching scuba diving and training to become a marine biologist when she fell in love with Australian Sean Reilly in Barcelona. After working apart all over the world, they reunited and became engaged in China, where Reilly was teaching and Fowler was on break from studying the endangered Australian sea lion. To celebrate their future together, they visited an island off southeastern Thailand, Ko Pha Ngan—where there were no warnings about the box jellyfish in the waters near their cabana. One fatal encounter changed everything.
Feeling cruelly betrayed by the sea she planned to make her life’s work, newly pregnant and unhinged by grief, Fowler headed for war-torn Eastern Europe and then Israel. Traveling alone through Poland, Hungary, Bosnia, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria, Fowler kept her memories close while observing how survivors coped. In Sarajevo, the shell of their blasted National Library became a symbol of resilience. Poland, she wrote, “taught me—that real tragedies don’t need to be redeemed, they need to be remembered.” In Israel, she witnessed war’s carnage everywhere, while life (and war) went on.
Four months later, Fowler could face the sea again, but it would be another eight months before she could bring herself to touch it. Almost 15 years later, box jellyfish warnings in Thailand are still rare and the deaths still under-reported. But due to global warming, she warns, the most venomous marine life on the planet is spreading as water temperatures rise.