“No matter how old you are, or what kind of relationship you have with your mother, she is the most significant woman in your life. We matter to our daughters more than we can imagine, whether or not they, or we, admit it or like it.”
Claire and Mia Fontaine haven’t had the easiest of mother-daughter relationships. In their memoir Come Back, they deal with Mia’s drug addiction and Claire’s attempts to save her. In Have Mother, Will Travel, it is ten years later and the two women journey through twelve countries (20 cities) in a kind of global scavenger hunt which Claire reads about in a newspaper. And spend four months in beautiful Avignon, France. Claire sees this as a chance to get to know her daughter again, after feeling a sense of disconnect from each other after their book tour for Come Back.
“Once upon a time we made it to hell and back; the scavenger hunt will be a way to celebrate an amazing chapter of our life by taking a very different kind of journey, this time not so far south, so to speak. The extra time in France will be a rare opportunity to take stock of where we are and chart a new course for ourselves, as women and as a mother and daughter.”
The trip doesn’t start out great. In China, Claire and Mia are at loggerheads. Claire having left her only jacket at the airport bathroom and forgets her card in the ATM after withdrawing the equivalent of just 9 US dollars, having mistaken the exchange rate. They hit Malaysia and Singapore, but it seems to be Nepal that strikes them, when they see kids struggling to survive on the street, and those who have been helped by an orphanage. Both Claire and Mia have the opportunity to see each other in a different light, from their interactions and reactions with strangers, with new environments and unique encounters:
“We experienced old patterns, new insights, and saw what was and wasn’t working in our relationship, even if we didn’t have the time to explore what would work better. Mostly, we learned to trust each other.”
The narration alternates between mother and daughter, and while their sections are typeset differently (Mia in italics – although I wish they’d use a different font instead as it isn’t easy reading pages of italics), they have very distinct voices. Claire tends to be a little more philosophical, lingering on thoughts of motherhood and mother-daughter relationships. She thinks about her own relationship with her mother, whom she hasn’t spoken to for a while, and contemplates what to do with her life now that her daughter is an adult. Mia is sometimes a little more lighthearted but also is a little unsure of herself and her position in life, and imparts her own youthful observations into the narration.
Of course when reading a book like this, I cannot help but reflect on my own relationship with my mother. While I’ve been reading this, my own mum has been staying with us, to celebrate her only grandchild’s second birthday and to help with her soon-to-be second grandson’s arrival in May. My mum (and the rest of my family) live in Singapore, a 20-odd hour flight away, many many time zones apart. We Skype every week and often email but that’s of course no comparison to her physically being here. It’s been so amazing seeing her play with wee reader, thinking of different ways to play with him that I’ve not thought of, or just sitting with him as he draws, or reading to him before naptime. I remember how she used to read to me and my sister at bedtime, sitting on the floor between our beds, although I can’t remember what exactly she read to us, possibly one of the many books we’d borrow on our regular trips to the Queenstown library or one of our own books at home.
And of course it’s just been wonderful having her here, talking about everyone back home in Singapore, about the baby to come, planning meals. Just being around her, after many months apart.
Have Mother, Will Travel was a rather different read for me. Within its chick-lit-ish cover (honestly, not something I would’ve picked up if I’d seen it at a bookstore/library – too flowery) lies a more well-researched travel narrative than I had expected, as well as a a deep, sincere and sweet mother-daughter story, one that I will share with my own wonderful mum.
Mia Fontaine is a popular motivational speaker who has written for the New York Times, blogs for Ms. Magazine, and is currently at work on a narrative nonfiction book. She lives in New York City.
I received this book for review from TLC Book Tours and the publisher.
Check out the rest of the tour stops:
Tuesday, April 9th: Write Meg
Wednesday, April 10th: We Said Go Travel
Thursday, April 11th: A Bookish Affair
Friday, April 12th: Gone With the Family
Tuesday, April 16th: Twisting the Lens
Wednesday, April 17th: Book Dilettante
Wednesday, April 17th: Walking on Travels
Thursday, April 18th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Monday, April 22nd: 5 Minutes for Mom
Tuesday, April 23rd: Peppermint PhD
Wednesday, April 24th: Olduvai Reads
Monday, April 29th: Great Imaginations
Tuesday, April 30th: Book Club Classics!
Wednesday, May 1st: The Book Garden