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Wish You Were Here: Travels Through Loss and Hope Paperback – February 7, 2012
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"Amy Welborn's latest book is a must-read spiritual treasure. It reveals not only the heart-wrenching dynamics of grief but also the odd and wonderful way grace illumines even the thickest darkness. Funny, engagingly written, spiritually profound, Wish You Were Here is a gem." --Fr. Robert Barron, author of Catholicism.
Wish You Were Here is the story of Amy Welborn's trip to Sicily ...in the aftermath of her husband's sudden death. Her pitch-perfect prose moves seamlessly from the winding, unknown roads of Italy to the winding, unknown roads of grief. -- Mary DeTurris Post, author of Walking Together: Discovering the Catholic Tradition of Spiritual Friendship.
"Far from a dry theological treatise, Welborn masterfully blends individual struggle, faith pondering, a what-happened-on-summer-vacation travelogue, and the wry insights of a mother traveling with 4-, 8- and 17-year-olds into a very personal yet very universal meditation on death." -- John M. Grondelski, National Catholic Register.
About the Author
AMY WELBORN has written for Our Sunday Visitor, Catholic News Service, Beliefnet, the New York Times, and Commonweal. She has five children and lives in Birmingham, Alabama.
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If you don't fit into any of those categories above, it may not be for you. I don't fit terribly well into any but the third clump, even if I am religious and I certainly work in and around loss (and am likely to experience more directly over whatever years I have left). What I try to imagine is a so-called "general reader" who might cheerfully be described as fitting none of the aforementioned qualities. That person, looking for some light, bouncy reading that rarely if ever calls on the reader to pause and reflect on their own life and situation, will probably not enjoy this slim but hefty tome at all.
They might want to remember where to find this book someday, though.
I followed, at one-internet-remove, the events described in this story as they happened, and grieved along with and prayed for most of these people, the author included. So I'll admit a bit of . . . rooting interest? . . . and a sense that my own review might not be entirely dispassionate and detached enough to see what the work's failings might be.
For the life of me, I can't figure out what they might be. I am very curious to read more reviews by people who never have seen any of Amy's blogs in the past, aren't Catholic, and may have less direct experience of having someone important to them die. My sense is that this will be a long-lasting classic, "A Grief Observed" with much more humor and a willingness to let irony take center stage from time to time.
Plus, she absolutely makes me want to go visit Sicily, which up to this point I mainly knew by way of Patton biographies, which don't put the island in the best possible light, I'm sure. Of course, Amy notes she wasn't sure then and isn't entirely clear when she heads home why she picked Sicily, either. But again, if the idea of Divine Nudgings is something you find off-putting, this book probably will irritate you. You'll want to yell at the pages or your Kindle (which is how I read it) "oh, c'mon, that's just coincidence." Personally, I think she's pretty measured and guarded about when she sees a bit of a guiding hand or loving hint, but if you don't want to read anything by an author who's open to that possibility in the first place, this ain't your read.
But if you are wrestling with doubts and despair, if you have a faith that is often like the household scissors -- you know it's just temporarily misplaced, but why is it always hard to find when you think you most need it? -- you will find yourself lifted up and carried along by "Wish You Were Here." And I pretty much guarantee you will laugh. You may just smile knowingly more often, but you will laugh.
This was written in a very personal and unflinchingly honest style. I saw it as a healing journey, not only for Amy and the children, but for many others as well. It is beautiful and meant to be savored. I will share it with my friends who have experienced the loss of a loved one. Thank you, Amy.
I came across this book searching for Catholic perspectives on grief and the loss of a spouse, and was completely surprised to find this book. I had no idea that Amy had lost her husband Michael so suddenly in 2009 -- she was 48 and he was 50. That struck a chord with me right away -- my husband died suddenly two months ago, and we were both just a year younger than they were.
I have read some excellent books on grief, and found something valuable in each of them. Reading this book actually helped heal me. There is something powerful in seeing your own emotions and feelings expressed by someone else so eloquently. Grief at its core is a journey taken alone, and your life is irrevocably changed. Even those of us who are fortunate to be surrounded by loving friends and family experience the loneliness of this path, and that is simply how it is. It is enormously reassuring and affirming to find that someone else has thought the same thoughts and felt the same feelings.
This book is really more of a memoir than a treatise on grief. After her husband's death, she decided to take three of her children on a trip to Sicily (a place none of them had ever visited, and even though neither Amy or Michael were Italian) -- simply to get away and find a place to breathe after their loss. And this was not a trip planned to within an inch of its life, either -- some days had no agenda at all, some days were simply a big mess, and some days were glorious ... with moments that were heartbreakingly beautiful despite the fact they were missing their beloved Michael. So much of what she did was new to her ... and after such a profound loss, the most mundane tasks of everyday life can feel completely new. It is almost as much of a travelogue as it is a memoir -- I honestly don't know how she could write with such detail about the places they visited. She is clearly inspired by her daily excursions and relates practically everything to some aspect of her grieving process. Some other reviewers have taken exception to what might be considered excessive mysticism, but I don't. (The concept of mystery in Catholic theology abounds -- not a conversation to be undertaken within this context.)
I think this book would be valuable to anyone grieving the loss of a spouse. It is essential to me -- not just their ages, not just the suddenness of the loss, but framing her experiences in her own Catholic faith and her struggle to do that. Though her Catholic perspective is important to me, if you live your life by any faith at all, I believe you could relate to this.
One last thing: towards the end of the book, she writes what she wants for her children as they live their lives, and it is simply breathtaking. Though my husband and I were not blessed with children, I want those things for all the children in my life.
I am so grateful to Amy Welborn for writing such a deeply personal book.
Most recent customer reviews
Very good inspirational reading.
She has a lot of insight.