Cute Kids in Plymouth

Spreading Ashes

"We didn't bury my brother - we cremated him."

That's the chilling, opening line of a great book I read last weekend, Spreading Ashes.

Spreading ashes Authored by my former Bowdoin classmate, Shaun Cooney, it tells the story of a 32-year-old-man who reluctantly backpacks across Europe to fulfill his older brother's dying wish. And, as he spreads his sibling's ashes along the way, he learns it is never too late to participate in life.

The story is so captivating and beautifully written, I could barely put it down. I did, in fact, finish it in a weekend. Despite opening with a death - which typically represents an ending -  it is the beginning of a journey that every armchair traveler can enjoy, with vivid descriptions of the people and places throughout France, Italy, Monaco, Switzerland, Scotland, Ireland and England. If you've ever traveled through Europe, it will bring back warm memories; if you haven't, you'll want to pack a bag tomorrow.

Beyond the travel experiences, you share the angst, worries, joys, and dreams of this man mourning his brother's absence...all conveyed in the most lyrical prose, like "the wind urged the the leaves to gossip" and "the racing cinema of a train window."

He describes the hustle & bustle of Florence this way: "It was the noise: the offensive whine of the streets that hit us like a blast of heat from an open oven. People chattered and yelled, horns wailed and yapped, trucks grunted and choked, and scooters buzzed and buzzed obnoxiously like runaway chainsaws."

And the cycles of the sun as a metaphor for life: "I contemplated the arc of the sun - a day. A lifetime. Awakening with the scarlet cheeks of a newborn, lightening to the rose-pink complexion of youth, paling beneath the heft of adulthood, chafing to redness along the descent to old age and death."

It's a heartwarming story, beautifully told. If nothing else, it'll leave you with a sense of wanderlust, a desire to experience "the most munificent and open-minded people on earth ... fellow travelers and compatriots abroad."


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