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Traveling with Pomegranates

Author Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter seek answers to life’s challenges in their travels to Greece and France.

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Fans of Sue Monk Kidd’s novels “The Secret Life of Bees” and “The Mermaid Chair,” as well as her nonfiction books, will be pleased with Traveling with Pomegranates, the new memoir she’s penned with her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor. However, they will probably be the only ones.

It’s an unrelentingly saccharine book, in which the two writers take turns spoon-feeding readers the Meaning of It All. No symbol is left unexplained (at length, and with frequency); no opportunity to preach is untaken. The unexplored life may not be worth living, as Socrates once said, but it turns out the overexplored life is no picnic, either.

“Traveling with Pomegranates” details a series of mother-daughter trips to Greece and France between 1998 and 2000, a time in which both women were struggling to redefine themselves, as well as their relationship to each other. Sue has just turned 50 and realized that she wants to write fiction – a sort of double whammy, as she is struggling to let go of her youth and simultaneously find the courage to try her hand at something dramatically new. Ann is fresh out of college and stunned by an overpowering uncertainty over what to do with her life. Their visits to places associated with Greek myths, ancient goddesses, and Christian saints give them insight into their problems and bring them closer together, both as mother and daughter, and as two adult women.

Admittedly, it’s an interesting premise. The problems lie in its execution. While both authors draw some genuinely interesting parallels between their experiences and the timeless stories of their host countries (the myth of Demeter and Persephone is particularly apt), neither is willing to let the reader make his or her own interpretations as to what their meaning might be. The result is akin to being beaten with a pillow; repetitious and, in the end, unaffecting.


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