Braver Than You Think
Around the World on the Trip of My (Mother’s) Lifetime
by Maggie Downs
Pub Date 12 May 2020
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At age 34, newly married and established in her career as an award-winning newspaper journalist, Maggie Downs quits her job, sells her belongings, and embarks on the solo trip of a lifetime: Her mother’s.
As a child, Maggie Downs often doubted that she would ever possess the courage to visit the destinations her mother dreamed of one day seeing. “You are braver than you think,” her mother always insisted. That statement would guide her as, over the course of one year, Downs backpacked through seventeen countries—visiting all the places her mother, struck with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, could not visit herself—encountering some of the world’s most striking locales while confronting the slow loss of her mother. Interweaving travelogue with family memories, Braver Than You Think takes the reader hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, white-water rafting on the Nile, volunteering at a monkey sanctuary in Bolivia, praying at an ashram in India, and fleeing the Arab Spring in Egypt.
By embarking on an international journey, Downs learned to make every moment count—traveling around the globe and home again, losing a parent while discovering the world.
"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
"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
"She encounters monkeys in Bolivia, grilled camel in Egypt (as a vegetarian), and roadwork in Thailand, all to learn courage in places her mom never got to see. But the most moving scenes are about her mother in the grip of Alzheimer’s, and the result is an affecting and hard-to-put-down meditation on life and grief.” —Michael Scott Moore, author of The Desert and the Sea
“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 one—or if you’re simply looking for a great read—Braver Than You Think is your book.” —Jeannie Vanasco, author of Things We Didn’t Talk About When I Was a Girl
“Maggie Downs writes beautifully in that liminal space where joy and grief overlap to form another kind of feeling where 'brokenness makes the cracks that can be filled again.' A brave story of one woman's love journey to honor and mourn her mother and to find herself in the process. There's something here for everyone—equal parts travel adventure and adventure of the heart. A triumphant book!" —Karen Rinaldi, author of It's Great to Suck at Something: The Unexpected Joy of Wiping Out and What It Can Teach Us About Patience, Resilience, and the Stuff That Really Matters
“What a gorgeous book—full 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 now—one to inspire each of us to be our best self and live our best life.” —Dinah Lenney, author of The Object Parade
"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
“Maggie Downs is Braver Than You Think—and braver than she thinks, before she sets off on the globe-trotting, culture-hopping, grief-haunted trip of her (and her mother’s) lifetime. This is a book about love and loss, yes, but also about survival, about curiosity and determination, and about how to thrive when the world seems suddenly to hold no certainty. I devoured this book in one sitting and closed its last pages enriched, moved, and inspired. You will be, too.” —Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body