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Saturday, April 16, 2011

Adventures in Trailing

Until a few months ago, I was unaware of what life as a trailing spouse is like. Nothing informs like experience.  Sympathetic to this new phase of my life, my sister-in-law shared with me a copy of Brigid Keenan’s Diplomatic Baggage: The Adventures of a Trailing Spouse.

Funny, honest, colorful, and sometimes a bit too chatty, Keenan shares her thoughts about having left her career as a fashion journalist to trail her diplomat spouse on postings to far-flung corners of the world.  The overarching narrative is of a battle-worn survivor offering advice to newly-trailing spouses. Those with more experience trailing might also enjoy the book.
Though Keenan at times describes bouts of sadness and loneliness, she’s no victim. She found extraordinary opportunities to contribute wherever she was, like writing four other books – two within her chosen career field. Sometimes, events were thrust upon her, such as when she was one of few journalists in Ethiopia when the famine began, and she published articles for papers in the UK about the epidemic. In Damascus, she restored a heritage property in the center of town, and wrote a coffee table book about other enchanting homes in the old city that were lovingly being returned to their original splendor. Being a trailing spouse can be a gift.
As enjoyable as it is to read her book, the story feels disjointed at times. There are random ditties here and there that don’t seem to add meaning. And while Keenan had multiple harrowing experiences driving on perilous mountain roads teetering dangerously close to the precipice, one recounting is sufficient. The gossip was mostly interesting. And, overall, Keenan is insightful and inspiring.

(published in the Spring 2011 issue of The Kayon)

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