Come Away with Me by Karma Brown

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Come Away with Me is the debut novel of Canadian writer Karma Brown, an award-winning journalist and freelance writer. Banana bread wafts its way through the pages of her novel, and she shares her own favorite recipe on her Facebook page.

Karma Brown’s debut novel, Come Away with Me, is that rare combination of drama and surprise that hits the reader over the head in the final 40 pages. It is the story of Tegan Lawson and husband Gabe, who have everything–a perfect marriage, inspiring careers, strong family ties and a baby on the way–when tragedy strikes.

After the car accident, Tegan has a difficult time forgiving Gabe. She experiences all the stages of grief from anger to denial, and the author writes both a credible and heartbreaking account of all those feelings.

With her intriguing opening words, “Even now, the smell of peppermint still makes me cry…,” you’re drawn into this tale of heartbreak and healing. Since the story is told through Tegan’s first person narrative, you’re privy to the unfathomable sadness that enfolds this protagonist after the sudden, irrevocable loss of her unborn son. Tegan can no longer have any children, a reason she harbors much resentment toward Gabe. She sinks into a deeper depression with each passing day, relying on her ever-patient husband. Tegan wears a necklace pendant with ashes, and it becomes symbolic throughout the book. Just when you think Tegan is about to recover from her deep grief, she encounters yet another emotional setback. She is supported by Gabe’s warm, caring family and her own encouraging, loving parents and brothers. Long-time friend, Anna, plays a supporting role in helping Tegan put her life back in order.

Tegan decides to embark on a six-week journey after she hits an all-time low in her life. She is reminded of her Jar of Spontaneity in which the young couple collected their future dreams and destinations. The writer employs the flashback technique; at first pass, it seems unrelated, but as the plot unfolds the reader realizes the need for the background. Brown’s style is very descriptive and Tegan’s journey to Thailand, Italy and Hawaii are charmingly chronicled in the pages of her quest for healing.

“The closer to the Wat we get, the more entranced I become. Every time my eyes sweep over a part of the temple, I notice something else. The intricacy of the gold awning over the entrance stairs. The glossy, bright red color framing the windows and doors. The perfect symmetry between the columns, and the way the marble slabs and golden window frames layer away from the front of the temple, like an opened fan.” Along the way, the reader is introduced to characters such as Simon, Vera and Bruce, each with their reasons for being in Bangkok. In Chiang Mai, when Tegan runs into fellow traveler Pete from Baltimore who invites her for drinks at the Red Lion, the author foreshadows what’s to come for the observant reader with her reply of being married.

You feel as if you are right beside them exploring the exotic sights of Thailand, the tasty cuisine of Italy and the soothing sunsets of Hawaii. “The hike up to the ruins of Torre dello Ziro, which was a fortress in the late 1400s, is particularly arduous, with steep, craggy rock steps and a harrowingly narrow path that snakes around the cliff’s edge. But as I stand in the ancient stone ruins, I have no fear.” Tegan takes a cooking class where she meets up with newlyweds Becca and Colin from England. The reader is treated to a tender moment when we learn how Gabe proposed to Tegan. With Gia the chef at Francesca’s Cooking School, our main character enjoys a spontaneous cup of cappuccino and a soul-searching moment. “Once she gathers her bags she stops to look at me for a moment, and I feel suddenly exposed. Like she knows there’s something important I haven’t mentioned.” The reader is left to figure out what this seemingly innocent conversation between two near strangers is alluding to, and even the beautifully crafted prose at the end of the chapter doesn’t really give the plot away. Interspersed throughout the travelogue are bits of history and loads of emotions.

It’s not until the end of her trip in Hawaii that Tegan seems to have finally begun healing. Here she meets Kai, who owns a surf shop and teaches surfing. Tegan struggles with her emotions once more, and it’s a roller-coaster ride for the reader. The magnificence of Maui settles in her soul as she makes peace with Gabe and the stunning plot twist is revealed.

Spoiler Alert: read this novel with a gigantic box of tissues near you! This well-crafted story of love and loss will have every reader crying and laughing in the same sentence. Tegan’s memories are poignant, the dialogue realistic and the emotions of both the characters and the reader are raw. The characters feel like true friends and, at the end, you’re sorry to have to say goodbye to them. HLM