Traveling With Ghosts

Traveling with Ghosts: A Memoir 
by Shannon Leone Fowler
304 pages | Published February 21st 2017 | Simon & Schuster

From grief to reckoning to reflection to solace, a marine biologist shares the solo journey she took—through war-ravaged Eastern Europe, Israel, and beyond—to find peace after her fiancé suffered a fatal attack by a box jellyfish in Thailand.

In the summer of 2002, Shannon Leone Fowler, a twenty-eight-year-old marine biologist, was backpacking with her fiancé and love of her life, Sean. Sean was a tall, blue-eyed, warmhearted Australian, and he and Shannon planned to return to Australia after their excursion to Koh Pha Ngan, Thailand. Their plans, however, were devastatingly derailed when a box jellyfish—the most venomous animal in the world—wrapped around Sean’s leg, stinging and killing him in a matter of minutes as Shannon helplessly watched. Rejecting the Thai authorities attempt to label Sean’s death a “drunk drowning,” Shannon ferried his body home to his stunned family—a family to which she suddenly no longer belonged.

Shattered and untethered, Shannon’s life paused indefinitely so that she could travel around the world to find healing. Travel had forged her relationship with Sean, and she hoped it could also aid in processing his death. Though Sean wasn’t with Shannon, he was everywhere she went—among the places she visited were Oświęcim, Poland (the site of Auschwitz); war-torn Israel; shelled-out Bosnia; poverty-stricken Romania; and finally to Barcelona, where she first met Sean years before. Ultimately, Shannon had to confront the ocean after her life’s first great love took her second great love away.

Cheryl Strayed’s Wild meets Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk in this beautiful, profoundly moving memorial to those we have lost on our journeys and the unexpected ways their presence echoes in all places—and voyages—big and small.

I'm going to be honest, memoirs aren't always my thing. Typically when I'm reading a story I want to get lost in a false reality, and memoirs, reliving someone else's experiences often feel too real and personal. On many levels, I can't always relate. A memoir is such a personal and unique recollection of the individual's journey. 

This memoir was the exception for me. The moment I read the description, I was intrigued. I knew that wanted to read this story and I wasn't disappointed. Traveling With Ghosts is a beautifully written account of love, loss and adventure. Shannon doesn't sugar coat anything and allows the reader to see the truth. A story that had the potential to be extremely depressing, was instead empowering and intriguing. 

I recommend this to anyone I think this story has something to teach all readers and will have a profound impact on anyone who dares to read it. 

Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an ARC of this book. 

Shannon Leone Fowler is a writer, marine biologist, and single mother of three young children. Since her doctorate on Australian sea lions, she’s taught marine ecology in the Bahamas and Galápagos, led a university course on killer whales in the San Juan Islands, spent seasons as the marine mammal biologist on board ships in both the Arctic and Antarctic, taught graduate students field techniques while studying Weddell seals on the Ross Ice Shelf, and worked as a science writer at National Public Radio in Washington DC. Originally from California, she currently lives in London. Traveling with Ghosts is her first book.

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