I had high hopes for this story, especially since it was detailing a trek through Italy: who wouldn’t have moments of frustration that were offset by the beauty and the architecture? Sadly, I didn’t appreciate it as much as I could have, because the humor was thinly veiled in complaint and whinging, with an overload of complaint making this Canadian woman feel much more like one of the stereotypical bad American tourists. Sure, that is a harsh commentary, but there are reasons that Europeans are not the front-line supporters in the American Tourist fan club: does the breaking of a marble statue’s finger by an American who SHOULD have known better than to be touching ring a bell?
Well, enough of that. Christmas and her mother have a difficult relationship: yes her mother is overtly bigoted and not a particularly nice lady, more concerned with how things look than the actual emotional content. But, she also does love her daughter, and there are moments where her dissatisfaction with her aging body and limitations of mobility are expressed to show her own sadness at the changes life has brought. Christmas, for her own part, didn’t think ahead, and is easily frustrated. The point of a vacation is to relax: Italy is known the world around for having a lack of immediacy for “things”, and to fully embrace the culture you visit, you too need to often toss away the timetable and just allow for delays, sidetracks and moments of nothingness. Instead, she stresses everyone, readers included, with the “must do, must see, must get there by” attitude. What is completely apparent and actually helpful is her detailing the difficulties of accessibility and ease of maneuvering with any sort of ‘helper’, in this case her mother’s walker.
Narration of this audiobook is provided by Eileen Barrett. Let me start by saying I am not a huge proponent of exaggerated accents, tones and other vocal manipulations to illustrate characters: most feel false and put on to me, and they are often more distracting than not. What I found was a curious mix of distracting and not distracting pitch, presentation and tone changes in Barrett’s delivery, with some pieces working perfectly well (her exaggerated enunciation for Valeria) and other elements not so. Overall, the narration did add a sense of the absurd to much of the complaining, which was fortunate as the book does seem to hold a deluge of negativity.
Ms. Christmas manages to have some softening in her attitude, although I would have liked to have seen it far earlier and more directly exhibited, there is a sense that this trip brought the two some closure, if only of the childish and long-held hope that her mother would somehow morph into a version of picture perfect loving and cuddly mum.
I received an MP3 download from the audio producer via AudioBook Jukebox for purpose of honest review for the Heard Word. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Title: Incontinent on the Continent: My Mother, Her Walker, and Our Grand Tour of Italy
Author: Jane Christmas
Narrator: Eileen Barrett
Format: Paperback, eBook, AudioBook
Publisher: Greystone Press
Audio Producer: Post Hypnotic Press Inc.
Length: 8 Hours: 26 minutes
Source: AudioBook Jukebox
Stars: Overall: 3 Narration: 3 Story: 2
Purchase Now: Amazon § Audible
About the Book:
To smooth over five decades of constant clashing, determined daughter Jane Christmas decides to take her arthritic, incontinent, and domineering mother, Valeria, to Italy. Will being at the epicenter of the Renaissance spark a renaissance in their relationship? As they drag each other from the Amalfi Coast to Tuscany — walkers, shawls, and a mobile pharmacy of medications in tow — they find new ways to bitch and bicker, in the process reassessing who they are and how they might reconcile. Unflinching and often hilarious, this book speaks to all women who have faced that special challenge of making friends with Mom.