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At the age of thirty-four, Michael McGirr decides to take his charming and inimitable mum on the honeymoon she and her late husband never got around to having. Between recounting their hilarious travels around Europe and meditating on the historical figures who dot their voyage — everyone from Hemingway to Michelangelo to the quietly heroic people who inspire McGirr’s special brand of faith — he plunges deep into his family history, unearthing sickness and depression but also moments of great love and perseverance.
Things You Get for Free is a deeply moving spiritual and intellectual journey that sparkles with McGirr’s singular wit and proves the truth behind his mother’s favourite saying: ‘I know more than you think I know.’
A young Jesuit priest from Australia and his "mum" tour Europe at the height of summer and live to tell about it in this witty, engaging travelogue and family memoir. In 1996, McGirr decided to take his mother on the honeymoon she never had a six-week whirlwind jaunt through London, Paris, Rome, Florence and other well-traveled destinations ("We've boldly vowed to go where millions have gone before," McGirr tells the travel agent). McGirr and Mum experience the best and worst of Europe: lunch in the peers' dining room at the House of Lords, the paint-peeling profanity of a Glasgow tour guide and the flabbergasting sight of hundreds of nuns carrying make-up compacts into the Sistine Chapel (they use the mirrors to see the ceiling without craning their necks). They frequent pubs, ridicule other tourists, hang out in tattoo parlors and generally enjoy the hell out of themselves. McGirr offers some of the sharpest observations of European foibles since Mark Twain swept through the continent. But his book is more than just a travel comedy. It is also an investigation into the past of the Catholic Church, the Jesuits and the McGirr family itself, which left Europe just two generations before. Readers will come for the humor, but they'll stay for McGirr's haunting memories of his path into the priesthood, his mother's sacrifices and his father's death. Brimming with lyrical insight and earthy humor, this debut is a rare treat.