A “rich, unblinking” (USA TODAY) memoir that moves from grief to reckoning to reflection to solace as a marine biologist shares the solo worldwide journey she took after her fiancé suffered a fatal box jellyfish attack in Thailand.
In the summer of 2002, Shannon Leone Fowler was a blissful twenty-eight-year-old marine biologist, spending the summer backpacking through Asia with the love of her life—her fiancé, Sean. He was holding her in the ocean’s shallow waters off the coast of Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand, when a box jellyfish—the most venomous animal in the world—wrapped around his legs, stinging and killing him in a matter of minutes, irreparably changing Shannon’s life forever.
Untethered and unsure how to face returning to her life’s work—the ocean—Shannon sought out solace in a passion she shared with Sean: travel. Traveling with Ghosts takes Shannon on journeys both physical and emotional, weaving through her shared travels with Sean and those she took in the wake of his sudden passing. She ventured to mostly landlocked countries, and places with tumultuous pasts and extreme sociopolitical environments, to help make sense of her tragedy. From Oswiecim, Poland (the site of Auschwitz) to war-torn Israel, to shelled-out Bosnia, to poverty-stricken Romania, and ultimately, to Barcelona where she and Sean met years ago, Shannon began to find a path toward healing.
Hailed as a “brave and necessary record of love” (Ann Patchett, New York Times bestselling author of Bel Canto and Commonwealth) and “as intricate and deep as memory itself (Jane Hamilton, author of A Map of the World), Shannon Leone Fowler has woven a beautifully rendered, profoundly moving memorial to those we have lost on our journeys and the unexpected ways their presence echoes in all places—and voyages—big and small.
Fowler, a lover of the ocean and marine life from an early age who trained as a marine biologist, was devastated when her fianc was killed by a jellyfish while they were on vacation in Thailand. Fowler's moving account traces her grief following the accident. Unable to face the ocean, Fowler forced herself back into the world, traveling for four months and visiting 10 countries off the usual tourist routes. She spent time with the two Israeli women who supported her throughout the ordeal in Thailand; she ventures to war-ravaged Sarajevo. Fowler notes that, "After Israel and Bosnia, Croatia seemed safe and peaceful and mellow." Wherever she travels, however, memories of her fianc are with her, and she continues to come to terms with his death: she learns of other numerous deaths she never is able to determine how many from the same deadly species of jellyfish near where her fianc died. Fowler notes that there were no warnings regarding the poisonous jellyfish, and officials initially attempted to claim his death was caused by drunkenness. This is nicely written and informative journey on the path to healing.
Traveling with ghosts
This feels like a revenge/oh-poor-smart-well traveled me, my fiancé’s family didn’t mention me on his gravestone memoir. She’s screaming at a grieving family to acknowledge her. See! She had sex with their son! She risked her life going to Sarajevo to be in a place that mirrored her misery! She touched baby sea lions. I read this for a friend. Yikes.