I was happy to see this memoir by Melissa Dalton-Bradford is now on Kindle. Unfortunately the Kindle edition wasn't edited very well (which is one reason why I think ebooks should be cheaper- publishers too often skimp on their ebook editions) and the changing fonts drove me nuts. The sections where everything was in italics were especially annoying. It got less erratic as the book went on, at least.
Anyway, I really loved this book in so many ways, so I have lots to say about it. But it'll be choppy because I didn't quite know what this book was trying to be. It's marketed and largely reviewed as a memoir of raising a global family (the subtitle makes that perfectly clear), but it feels more like a memoir of grief. Dalton-Bradford says toward the end of the book that she doesn't identify primarily as an expat or a global citizen or anything like that, but as a mother who buried her firstborn son.
Parker's death completely changes the tone of the book, as it obviously should. Both parts were well-written and worth reading. They were just so different from each other and I think I'd rather have read two separate books, especially if both subjects could have more detail.
So the second half is heartbreaking and lovely and inspiring and horrible and so many things. It doesn't matter where you've lived or what you're doing, Dalton-Bradford's story is engrossing. It really is an excellent grief memoir and worth reading just for that.
But, not surprisingly, and since the book is marketed this way, I have a
lot more to say about the global family parts of the book.
First, this family isn't much like ours even though we've already beaten them on the addresses and we're going to make a good attempt on the countries. This is an integrating type of expat family. They put their children into local schools (although that's more reasonable if you're living in Norway instead of Kyrgyzstan) and seem to try to become as local as possible. I think this is a great way to be even if it's not my style of expat life. I can't even manage to do things the way Americans do them while I'm living in the US; I can't manage to figure out how to be Kyrgyz in Kyrgyzstan. I also think it makes a huge difference to be in Europe where, even though it's nothing like the US, it's a lot more familiar to USians than Central Asia is. I would have very much liked to have read more about their short time in Singapore, but mostly she wrote about poverty.
But even though we don't integrate the way they do (largely because we've chosen to homeschool, a decision I do not regret at all), that doesn't mean that we don't dig into the place we're in. We're still people who "move, dig in deeply, move again, and take a healthy layer of the last soil with them." And that, my friends, is why I'm having a hard time adjusting to the idea of Mexico. I feel like I've dug so deeply into Central Asia in the last eight years, and in the Middle East for 10 years before that, that I cannot imagine the idea of doing the same in a country that borders the US and is not Muslim. I'll survive, though, I imagine.
I truly (you can't imagine how truly) understand why she ships her huge table everywhere, but I could not do that myself. I just can't justify the hassle and expense of doing it even if I wasn't the one paying or being hassled. I have to find smaller things that go everywhere with me, but that symbolize what that table means. Moving to new countries with just your two suitcases each readjusts things in a different way.
I was delighted to find someone who thinks it's harder to speak to someone on the phone in a foreign language than in person. That was one of many I-know-exactly-what-you're-talking-about moments. MANY.
It was fun to read about their church experiences, even though they were only lightly touched on- this is not a Mormon book. Since we've hardly ever been able to go to church overseas, I don't really know much about the international church from personal experience.
I know I already said this, but I'm so glad we homeschool. I think dealing with new schools (including some seriously sub-par ones in Kyrgyzstan) would have put me over the edge as quickly as homeschooling would for a lot of families I know.
There was always more I wanted to know. The second half of the book is far more intimate in many ways than the first half- I felt like I was just seeing into one tiny part of her life in the first part of the book- mostly just getting the children integrated and some stories about learning new languages. But it was also refreshingly free from so many pitfalls of books about international life. I fully expected to be annoyed, like I usually am with books like these, and I almost never was (it would be too much to expect that I wouldn't be annoyed at least a few times).
This also reaffirmed that I really should never live in France. Norway- yes. I could settle in there nicely. But France wouldn't really be for me. But I think my heart will always be in Asia. We'll see if Mexico does anything about that.
It's probably time to stop there. I need to find someone to talk about this with, don't I?