"A timely tale to quell our increasing wanderlust . . . A story of love, grief and travel." Laura Hampson, Evening Standard
"Her expertise as a travel writer is clear as she provides the background to guide the reader into a deeper appreciation of what would ordinarily be seen as the world’s most Instagrammable spots . . . Her book is compulsively readable." Pallavi Yetur, The Coachella Review
"Downs has a fluid, conversational writing style, zooming in to particular anecdotes that illuminate her experience rather than trying to cover the entire year . . . The travel sections are compelling and lively. A poignant tale of connection and disconnection through travel." Kirkus Reviews
"Fans of Eat, Pray, Love (2006) and Wild (2012) may find this a satisfying next read." Booklist
"Compelling and moving, Downs's memoir will appeal to fans of travel writing and anyone who has walked with a loved one through a difficult decline."Katie Noah Gibson, Shelf Awareness (starred review)
"At its core, the book is an exploration not just of place, but of the deep emotional bonds between mother and daughter . . . Braver Than You Think, in prose manicured to a high shine, takes us on an adventure of a lifetime." David M. Olsen, Kelp Journal
"Her entertaining account of this year seamlessly blends exciting travelogue tales with musings about her mother, punctuated by concerns about whether Alzheimer’s disease will eventually manifest in her own body . . . By the end of Braver Than You Think, readers may be ready to embrace Downs’ insatiable approach to life, 'chasing adventure for the sake of living deliberately and passionately.'" BookPage
"With a mother in the final stages of Alzheimer’s, Maggie Downs tries to run from her grief, but instead takes us to the far reaches of the globe, cuddling (and being bitten) by endangered monkeys, bonding with elephants, and working to save sea turtles. It’s a journey to make any of us wonder if we’re braver than we think." Diana Marcum, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of The Tenth Island
"Deeply inspiring and profoundly moving, Maggie Downs's journey reminds us to take stock of what's truly important. Gorgeous prose, fascinating adventures, and a lot of heart will make this one of your favorite books of the year." ––Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance
“What a gorgeous bookfull of adventure and suspense. I'd follow Maggie Downs anywhere. She's not just intrepid, she's excellent company: funny, deep, vulnerable, exquisitely honest, and such a good writer. Downs is the hero we need nowone to inspire each of us to be our best self and live our best life.” Dinah Lenney, author of The Object Parade
“In prose so vivid that I felt the coral cutting her feet in the Red Sea, the sharp fangs of a monkey as his teeth hit her flesh, and the devastation of losing her mother, Maggie Downs proves she’s a great stylist and a great storyteller. If you want an adventure story, a love story, a story about losing a parent or about becoming oneor if you’re simply looking for a great readBraver Than You Think is your book.” Jeannie Vanasco, author of Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl
When travel writer Downs's mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, the author vowed to travel the world to see the places her mother always wanted to visit. Her travels bring her to a monkey sanctuary in Bolivia, a circumcision ritual in Uganda, and a yoga camp on the Sinai Peninsula. While her mother's health grew progressively worse back home, Downs reflected on her mother's life while visiting places many Westerners would claim are unsafe for a solo female traveler. She takes the trip not only to assert her independence but to honor her mother, who told her she is "braver than you think." VERDICT Part travelog, part grief memoir, this is for readers who want to experience the thrill of solo travel as experienced by someone slowly losing a parent.—Erin Shea, Ferguson Lib., CT
Journalist Downs dedicates a trip around the world to her dying mother.
In 2010, newly married and having just quit a 10-year job as a reporter in Palm Springs, the author took a relatively low-budget trip to places her mother, who was suffering the late stages of Alzheimer's disease, had always wanted to see and others that were on her own bucket list. The first couple weeks were a sort of honeymoon, with Downs and her husband, Jason, staying in Peru at a freezing-cold hostel, facing dangers while climbing the Inca Trail, and getting attacked by mosquitoes in the Amazon rainforest. Then Jason returned to work, leaving Downs to make her way through South America, Africa, and Asia, sometimes on her own and other times with companions she met along the way—and often without internet or phone access to communicate with her family and friends. She often paid for her food and lodging by volunteering or working, sometimes teaching English and one time working as a DJ playing American country music in Uganda. When her mother died, Downs was staying at a yoga retreat in Egypt. “Word of my mother’s death,” she writes, “spreads quickly through the dozen or so long-term residents, and they rush to take on some of my pain.” She returned home for the funeral and then set off again. At multiple points, the author seems to be trying to assure herself that her travel is truly for her mother and not a form of escape. Recounting a whitewater rafting trip on the Nile, she writes, “I knew she would take chances if she had the opportunity. I have to do this, because she cannot.” Downs has a fluid, conversational writing style, zooming in to particular anecdotes that illuminate her experience rather than trying to cover the entire year. While the segments devoted to her mother and her disease are integrated rather awkwardly into the narrative, the travel sections are compelling and lively.
A poignant tale of connection and disconnection through travel.