Book Review: The Suitcase and The Jar

I had the pleasure of reviewing a book called The Suitcase and The Jar by Becky Livingston. This book was sent to me by a publishing company called Caitlin Press. They are based out of British Columbia and were excited to do this collaboration with me when I approached them back in late October. Sara joined me and read this one as well so we will have 2 reviews below (one from me and one from her).

Synopsis: When a brain tumor takes the life of Becky Livingston’s twenty-three-year-old daughter Rachel, her life takes an unconventional turn. Rachel, an avid traveler, had one wish: to keep exploring the world.

So, for twenty-six months Livingston travels — untethered and alone — to Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Australia, India, England, Ireland, and North America, coast to coast. In her suitcase: Rachel’s ashes, heavy but compact. As she gradually merges her daughter’s remains with the elements, Livingston learns how to forge a new sense of belonging in an unfamiliar world.

Is it reckless for a fifty-three-year-old mother to quit her job and set off overseas with no agenda or timeline? Is such a journey squandering a life, or saving it?

Sara’s Review: This book is a memoir of a mother who has lost one of her daughters. She travels the world by house-sitting internationally, and she has brought a jar of her daughter’s ashes with her to leave in the places she finds beautiful. Throughout the book, Livingston reveals, through memories, her daughter’s life and death, as well as how she begins to attempt to piece her life back together after the loss.

This book was a very intriguing read, at first, as the writing is so brilliantly done that it is very easy to understand and empathize the author’s loss. I enjoyed the way we were both observing the loss as well as reading about poignant memories of her daughter before her death. As we learn about and grow with the author as she begins to feel like she can move on, I was particularly intrigued by the realizations and personal growth that was achieved and expressed. The writing in this novel does an excellent job of articulating something as inarticulate as an extreme loss, especially the loss of a child too young.

Through Livingston’s journey of acceptance both before and after her daughter’s death, it is so easy to feel her pain and understand all her feelings and reactions. I really enjoyed being able to experience something like this in such a beautiful and well-composed way, especially as it is a memoir rather than fiction.

Eventually, unfortunately, the book begins to feel like you’ve read it before, in that near the last quarter of the book it seems as though all the feelings have been adequately expressed, and it begins to feel repetitive. Though still beautifully written, you begin to feel like Livingston is just restating what she has already written in slightly changed ways. Although I can’t quite complain about a “character” in a non-fiction book, there were times when I had trouble understanding what comes off as selfishness from the author. Although she suffered the terrible loss of her daughter, she has another daughter whom she completely leaves and loses touch with during her journey, and evidently was too distracted by her sick daughter to ever be close to her second daughter even before the death.

Overall, I quite enjoyed this book. It was well constructed, I enjoyed the style and the writing, I was able to fully empathize with the author, and the story was beautiful and sad and meaningful. I only wish that it had been about 50 pages more succinct, and then I think that I would be more apt to recommend this book to others.

Sara’s Book Rating: 4/5

My Review: I can honestly say that I have never read a book like this before. It was very unique to see the perspective of the mother throughout her daughter’s slow decline from her brain tumor. Grief can play so many roles in one’s life and Becky had to deal with the loss of her fiance and the loss of her daughter to the same type of tumor. She explains how she dealt with this grief in many different ways and how there is no shelf life for the feeling of loss when someone you spend your life raising dies before you do.

What inspired me was the nomad lifestyle she took on to explore and distribute some of her daughter’s ashes in places all over the world. It helped her in her grieving process and it was a way to fulfill Rachel’s love of traveling in a way she never could. I wish I could go travel the world like Becky did (not under the same circumstances but to be able to see the many amazing places and destinations this world has to offer).

I find at some parts of the book, it gets a bit repetitive but this could be to illustrate the same routine that Becky had to go through while being a mother caring for family members that were terminally ill.

Overall, it was an enlightening book about a mother’s journey to figure out what life has to offer after losing what was most important to her.

My Book Rating: 3.5/5

You can get this book directly from the publisher on Caitlin Press or you can buy it on Amazon and find it on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: This book was sent to us by Caitlin Press in physical paperback format to read and give an honest review.

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RIP Stan Lee

I know this post is a little late but I just wanted to express my sadness for the loss of Stan Lee. This man was a legend and an inspiration to all. He created most of the comics that I loved and adored as I grew up (still love them to this day). He is the reason I got into drawing and art in general. I have one of his drawing guidebooks that I used to practice with as a kid. You could say that it is because of him that I went to school for Graphic Design and am working in the design field.

His memory will live on in all of his beautiful creations and the stories to come in the Marvel universe. We owe it to him to continue to read comicbooks and to believe in ourselves because we can do anything we put our mind to.

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Book Review: Clemmie’s War by Rosie Boyes

Our reviewer Sara has another great recommendation for you bookworms. She recently read Clemmie’s War by Rosie Boyes. Read her review below 🙂

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Clemmie’s War is about a young girl named Clemmie who finds herself in a place called Heartease, which seems to function like an afterlife for children who have died. She meets a house full of warm and wonderful characters who are strange but kind. She is soon followed by her Grandfather, who is not a good man and is looking to get to her at all costs to complete his mission, which we learn about later in the novel. There are many twists and turns in the plot, revealing new aspects of how Heartease and its characters operate in this parallel world. We soon discover that Clemmie’s arrival has caused a time rift which begins to cause drastic changes as well as earthquakes in Heartease. Doctor Rose, the head of the Children’s House, and several other interesting characters must travel back in time to repair the damage done and save Clemmie.

This novel is similar to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, in that it is a house in what seems like a parallel world to our own, where the children there are kept safe by their strange caretakers. Although all the characters here are essentially dead and living a second life in the afterlife, they are otherwise normal people. The characters are unique and strange, and well fleshed out by the author. If you are looking for a strange read that will make you smile, then this is a delightful book. There are constantly new developments and elaborations on the world of Heartease as you go along, ever-changing.

This is a cute story and I enjoyed the read. It was different than anything I have read recently. My only complaint is that it could have been better developed – there were often moments where it almost read like a synopsis of itself; instead of elaborating on a situation or conversation, it would glaze over it, where the story would have benefitted from more details. I would have loved to understand more about how Heartease and the subsequent time travel worked, and this would have been even better if the author had made the story more detailed.

Book Rating: 4/5

You can find this book on Amazon!

Disclaimer: We were provided a digital copy of this book by the author to read and give an honest review.

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