A Review of Finding Lily: A Memoir
I stumbled across Finding Lily in my local library, en route to another book. The title made me curious and I liked that it was by a Canadian author. However, truth be told, the real reason I picked it up is because it is only 189 pages and I was short a few titles for my 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge of 150 books.
Finding Lily isn’t an award-winning book. It didn’t make a big splash anywhere. Some reviewers panned it. But I loved it. I agree with author David Gilmour who wrote, “Finding Lily is simply the story of a bad thing that happened to a decent man–and what he did in the aftermath. I wish more writers wrote like Mr. Clewes.”
First Line of the Book
“It wasn’t my plan to write a book about what happened after my wife took her own life a few days after missing my fiftieth birthday.”
Recruit Fans by Adding the Book Blurb
“Life goes on,” offered his friends and family. But to adman Richard Clewes–caught emotionally unawares in the brutal and raw aftermath of his wife’s suicide, finding a new way to live meant leaving the safe confines of a familiar life and embarking on a physical–and a spiritual–quest. Thus began a six-month round-the-world sojourn–armed with not much else but his grief, his confusion, and a sketchpad.
Part travelogue, part contemplation, Finding Lily is a rich visual record in words and illustrated postcards (mailed by the author to himself along the way) chronicling the events and the people who guide his journey across four continents and diverse cultures. From a Rastafarian tennis pro to a free- spirited helicopter pilot stranded on a New Zealand beach, to a Balinese Hindu priest and a Russian Afghanistan war vet turned LA cabbie, the narrrative is at once humorous and deeply felt, artistic yet immediately accessible.
From the blackest depths of grief to a redemptive hope and joy, Finding Lily is a compelling portrait of the ultimate buoyancy of the human spirit.
No one can tell you who they are, they can only tell you who they were.Alan Watts
Introduce the Main Character Using Only Three Words
bewildered, creative, authentic
Delightful Design (Add the Cover Image)
The cover art is by the author. Even better, each chapter begins with an illustrated postcard drawn by the author and accompanied by a relevant quotation. I’ve shared a couple of the quotations in the margins of this post.
Some people find any mention of death morbid. Those people probably won’t want to read this book, which is unfortunate. It’s a hopeful book, an uplifting one. If you are interested in exploring life’s big questions, I think you might enjoy Finding Lily.
Your Favourite Line or Scene
I had many favourites in this slim volume. I admire Richard Clewes for his:
honesty in describing his experience
“Erin’s death removed me from the version of life we made, not life itself, but still, I don’t think I am quite awake. It’s as if I am in the ultimate witness protection program. For my own good, my old identity is gone, but a new one hasn’t been worked out yet. I’m a perverse amnesiac–the self I do remember, I don’t want back.” (p.46)
The days are stacked against what we think we are: it is nearly impossible to surprise ourselves.Jim Harrison
sense of humour
“Do I have to be diligent every waking minute? Drawing and writing little, tiny thoughts in my diary? Maybe I can doze in every country I go. And after, I’ll come up with a witty book, describing what I will come to know well, namely the things that can be done in bed apart from sex or sleep. I must do this before Bill Bryson does.” (p.96)
“Between the revolving door and the cab are two heavyset Latinos, with smooth black hair and paint-spattered white shirts and trousers. They pull slowly on cigarettes. Their fingers are cupped like seashells, arranged for maximum surreptitious inhalation. They turn their heads away from the smoke plumes as if they had nothing to do with it.” (pp. 179-180)