MINI-REVIEW. “European Odyssey: How A Boxer’s Daughter Found Grace” by Bailey Alexander . More info: www.baileyalexander.com (Disclaimer: I met the author 30 years ago in Seattle, both of us steeped in the entrepreneurial spirit, we helped each other at many turns– her endless forays, which the book covers early on, and she joined my Seattle theatre Board, becoming a most dedicated, aggressive member for three years. Our friendship survived overseas, over decades, over… our differing paths to “finding grace”)
The wonderful thing about reading, as my monthly Book Club always reminds me: the common denominator of humanity can inspire empathy, regardless of its setting. You need not be a dirt-poor Muslim teen in the slums of India to relate to Majumdar’s wrongfully accused social-media frolicker in “A Burning” any more than you need to be an international IT specialist or recruiter with a passion for European cities to identify with Bailey Alexander’s ‘odyssey’ –which here is both a deliciously detailed tour of Mediterranean ports and personalities, and an internal journey for the author to find serenity following the loss of ‘Muv’ (her Mother) and the most important figure in her tumultuous life. The two BIG secrets that outline Alexander’s life, are very similar: One that she owns (and publicly revealed before leaving Seattle on her trans-Atlantic quest) and one belonging to Muv that is confirmed late in life. Bailey’s writing is thoughtful, observant, and detailed along the way as she and her husband navigate on the ‘Madi’… sometimes there is a P.G. Woodehouse glint to some of the fetes and festivities (She shares her favorite joke: “What do you call an Italian in a bad mood? French.” And there’s another episode –in Malta, I believe– where she cheerfully approaches a group of biker-chic Lesbians, out of boredom and curiosity, that she just as abruptly abandons because “I thought they might beat me up.”)
Occasionally, I yearned for more fully drawn supporting characters –and run-ins with them– but the book kept its Bridget Jones’ Diary feel, a journal keeping the itineraries of comings & goings, delightfully atmospheric…. but sometimes drifting course from the interior journey. By the time it’s summed up, it is a deft revelation, quiet in its serenity, clearly hard-earned. Private.
There is much to recommend here. I felt privy to much of the depth here, knowing the Author, a true original. I also knew ‘Muv’ however briefly, and recall a time when I took care of Bai’s two high-maintenance cats, for 2-3 weeks, which became months. I began to worry as they would bravely sun themselves on the back terrace with its broken door, and became eye-candy for a family of raccoons and one coyote. Alexanders’ parents came to retrieve the cats, and I felt guilty. As her Mother came up the long stair path to the door, I remember her reaching out and her resting on my forearm “All is going to be just fine” she said….And it was. At that moment she resembled one of the lovely dancers she had painted in a Monet-like mural on the wall of Bailey’s Boren Street Penthouse. Some images of grace are burned into our collective memory, like paintings in a gallery. Muv’s Mural is like that.