Sailing My Shoe to Timbuktu: A Woman's Adventurous Search for Family, Spirit, and Love

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9780060530631: Sailing My Shoe to Timbuktu: A Woman's Adventurous Search for Family, Spirit, and Love

In this fiercely candid and moving book, novelist Joyce Thompson recounts a difficult yet transforming period in her life. In words that will ring true to anyone in the "sandwich" generation, Thompson tells the story of her troubled marriage ending, her adjustment to single motherhood, finding new love, turning fifty, dealing with sick and dying parents, and somehow discovering a spiritual home in an ancient, earth-centered tradition.

Along the way, she comes to terms with the blessings and specters of her own dysfunctional family. This includes her father, a distinguished judge and chronic alcoholic, and her tough, smart mother, a pioneering woman lawyer, who is slowly succumbing to Alzheimer's and whom Thompson helps to die gracefully, despite many traumatic and even ridiculous moments. But with Thompson's lyrical, personal, and evocative writing, she transforms what could have been a soap opera into a rich, moving, and funny story, full of hope.

Thompson's novels are about understanding the human condition, and it's no surprise she focuses that gift on her own life and the lives of her family. Elegant, wise, and witty, Sailing My Shoe to Timbuktu, pulls no punches and is delightfully and compulsively readable.

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Review:

Novelist and Northwest native Joyce Thompson ( Bones) offers an excellent spiritual memoir, blending the contemporary challenges of middle age into a profound mystical awakening through the Afro-Caribbean religion of Santeria. More than a memoir about finding a religion that works for her, Thompson speaks to a familiar American dilemma—how do we integrate an ancient, native spirituality into modern Western life? Like many contemporary seekers, she was drawn to a spirituality that offered a more loving, empowering and non-judgmental God along with meaningful rituals and teachings. "This theology assumes that you have an essential right to prosper, to be the best and most successful person you're inherently capable of becoming, to live in harmony with your fellows and with the earth itself," she explains. As she grows more devout in Santeria, she must learn how to incorporate her spiritual growth into daily living. In her case, Thompson is a divorced, single mother, caring for a disabled mother with Alzheimer's, while trying to pursue a romance with a newfound soul mate (and then attempting to integrate their children into this blessed out union). One of the basic tenets of this fascinating religion (which began as the traditional spirituality of the Yoruba people in West Africa and eventually expanded into the Caribbean through the slave trade) is to revere and respect one's ancestors. So on top of everything else, Thompson must also forge a more loving and respectful relationship with her ancestors. In doing so, she faces her family legacy—including the crippling alcoholism of her father (a widely respect judge) and the emotional coldness of her mother, who was once a stunning and accomplished lawyer. As we read this expertly rendered story about a woman's reckoning with her past and reawakening to her future, we feel privileged to enter into this fascinating religion and this tenderly beautiful life. -- Gail Hudson.

About the Author:

Joyce Thompson is the author of five novels, including Bones, Merry-Go-Round, Conscience Place, and the short story collection East Is West of Here. Thompson grew up in Seattle and environs and has been a writing teacher and an editor. She recently moved to Oakland, California.

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