Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story

by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor
Viking     2010
304 pages     Spiritual Memoir

In the late 1990s, Sue Monk Kidd and her young adult daughter, Ann, traveled twice to several sites in Greece and France. Kidd, the author of Secret Life of Bees, The Mermaid Chair, and The Invention of Wings  among other works, was in a creative funk. She was turning 50 and feeling her age. She had begun thinking about a fiction book that she wanted to write that involved bees, a young girl, and a Black Madonna. 

The second trip the mother-daughter duo took to Greece helped her ferment and develop the concept of the sacred feminine in her mind. She says that "When I visited Mary's House in Ephesus during Ann's and my first trip, the theological polarization I felt about how to relate to Mary began to be resolved." Each event in the story of Mary "feels like a universal story, offering points of entry into my own experience." 

Ann had just graduated from university and had broken up with her boyfriend when the pair took their first trip. She, too, was in a funk and quite depressed. A university trip to Greece had convinced her that she wanted to study ancient Greece for a graduate degree, but unfortunately, she was not admitted into her graduate school of choice. By the second trip, Ann is in a better place emotionally and is planning to be married soon after they return from their travels. During this trip, she debates whether to become a writer. On both trips, she ponders the poem by David Whyte that says, "Give up all other worlds except the one to which you belong." What world does she belong in? She finds that to be the mission of her travels.                                                              

In each section of Traveling with Pomegranates, Sue and Ann share their journals and their impressions of the area they are visiting. They also express their spiritual growth and their heart's longings. Sue purchases glass pomegranate charms to wear on necklaces as a way to counteract what she sees as a growing estrangement between mother and daughter. The necklaces serve as a reminder of the story of Demeter rescuing her daughter Persephone from the underworld. They find the answers to their inner searching through their growing understanding of the Madonna and other images of the sacred feminine. Both grow from these travel experiences—individually and together.

I found Traveling with Pomegranates to be both intriguing and tedious. The most intriguing part for me was how Sue formulated the concepts that became her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees. The tedious parts were their inner arguments, which became strained and repetitive as the pair journeyed. On the other hand, the book is an excellent example of how travel can formulate ideas and creative expression. 

I read the book for the monthly spiritual growth book group at my church. It engendered a great deal of discussion, but several times, members of the group were heard to say, "Well, it wasn't my favorite." Many felt that the publishing of the book was Sue Monk Kidd's attempt to help her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor begin her career as a writer. But, everyone agreed to reread Secret Life of Bees for next month's book group, citing the introduction we got from Ann in Traveling with Pomegranates.

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