Friday, July 31, 2015

Book Review: Phenomenal: A Hesitant Adventurer's Search for Wonder in the Natural World by Leigh Ann Henion

Last week I was not feeling great. Not sick, but I had lost motivation and was having a hard time just getting through the things I needed to do. I was supposed to read a depressing WWII book for my book club. Instead, I needed a pick-me-up. I remembered meeting Leigh Ann Henion at an author event in the spring. I am almost never influenced by authors to buy their books. My books are very carefully selected after I've read multiple reviews. But Ms. Henion was effervescent. Her enthusiasm and glee with the world was infectious, but not silly. There was real substance behind her joy. That was just what I needed in my life just then.

In this book, Leigh Ann travels around the world to experience natural phenomena--the migration of Monarch butterflies in Mexico, volcanoes in Hawaii, the Northern Lights in Scandinavia, an eclipse in Australia, among others. While experiencing these unique and stunning events, she has been dealing with a difficult adjustment to becoming a mother at home, juggling her marriage and work as well. Taking the time to go see the nightly lightning storms in Venezuala and the bioluminescent coves in Costa Rica, she learns she needs to give herself time to just be, to find herself and her place in her world again, and that she actually is a better mother if she sometimes gets away. Spiritual but not religious, Leigh Ann is also experiencing the utter astonishment of these once-in-a-lifetime types of events and finding comfort and awe in the natural world. She also meets interesting and inspirational people along the way, such as the former Kilimanjaro porter in Africa who thinks his life is normal and boring, and yet doesn't see the astonishment in the fact that he's summited Kilimanjaro dozens of times. They show her how to look to her own life for the phenomenal in the everyday.

The book is well-written, smoothly transitioning from her life in the mountains of North Carolina with her family, and the sometimes bizarre and always fascinating phenomenal events that take her to all the corners of the globe. Every single event in this book is now added to my own bucket list.

I bought this book at Park Road Books at a WNBA event with Leigh Ann Henion and other authors.

No comments: