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The Vagabond Mother by Tracey Scott-Townsend - Book Tour

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Not every Vagabond is a Castaway...

Maya Galen’s oldest son, Jamie, left home eight years ago after a massive row with his parents and now Joe, her youngest child and apple of her eye, has cut off all contact with them too.

Called to Australia to identify the body of a young man, Maya is given her son’s journal. After a sleepless night she decides that the only thing she can do is follow in Joe’s footsteps and try to discover her most basic human self. Eschewing a monetary lifestyle, from now on she must rely on her physical and emotional strength to survive.

Following Joe’s hand-drawn maps and journal entries, she travels from Australia to Denmark and beyond, meeting many other travellers along the way and learning valuable lessons.

Eventually a crisis forces her to return home and confront the end of her marriage, but also a new understanding of what family, in the widest sense, really means.
Exploring the big questions at the heart of human existence, The Vagabond Mother shares territory with books and films such as Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, The Way, starring Martin Sheen, Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed and Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.

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She squinted at the top bunk. It wavered above her. Stretching her arms, she managed to pull down the rolled quilt and the white cotton bedding and drop them on the floor. Moving away so as not to disturb Jodie she struggled to fit the quilt inside the cover. Despite a lifetime of such chores she messed up the task, at first inserting it wide-side in so that it bunched up in the middle of the cover. A woman, not young but not as old as Maya herself, sitting cross-legged on a lower bunk across the room gave her a wry smile before returning her attention to her book. I wanted to be on my own, thought Maya, and so I am. No Con to rescue her now. An eclectic mix of emotions rushed forward like a tide and retreated, leaving her empty. At least she had a focus. She folded the now made-up quilt and left it on the floor before tackling the pillow, which gave her less trouble. When that was done she unstrapped her sandals and placed them neatly under the bed, at the foot end. Jodie seemed completely engrossed in something on her phone now and Maya was glad the girl didn’t appear to be watching while she tackled the ladder in a most ungainly manner. If only she’d agreed to join the other women from the surgery at their weekly Zumba sessions.  If I’m this out of breath from climbing onto a bunk-bed what’ll I be like after my first proper day of walking?! Maya set about tucking the sheet around the edges of the mattress, lifting her knees and elbows alternately so she could pull it smooth. Then she had her first practise descent of the ladder to collect the pillow from the floor, swinging it up onto the bunk followed by her cotton tote bag which she pulled out of the rucksack.
She ought to visit the bathroom before getting herself settled. She wrinkled her nose at the splashes of urine on the toilet seat, wiping them off carefully with a sheet of toilet paper – trying not to gag. Now she knew how the cleaner at her home must have felt when she’d had to clean the growing boys’ bathroom. Picking her way carefully back over the tiled floor between a pair of boots and someone’s dropped clothes she bundled the quilt determinedly under her arm and tackled the ladder again. The quilt wrestled against her one-armed embrace and spilled out behind her. Reaching the top, she dragged the rest of it up. She heard a chuckle from across the room but chose to ignore it. She lay for a while on her stomach, elbows digging into the thin mattress, her chin propped in her hands as she gazed out of the window. Soon, though, her eyelids persisted in drooping – however hard she tried to keep them open – so she gave up and lay back on the pillow. She’d earned a rest. Waves of fatigue washed over her and she drifted on the tide, her eyes half-open.
From the window behind the bunk she’d seen the view of rooftops and eucalyptus trees and a public garden opposite. She could hear the sound of traffic from the main road two streets away. An unexpected shaft of joy entered her heart. This might be the first time in her life that she’d experienced any kind of freedom. Now nobody was there to call to her, asking where’s this? Or, what time is that at? Or, have you seen my shoes? Nobody was expecting their dinner. She understood for the first time what Joe had been aiming for most of his life. It started when he began drawing complicated maps as a small child and insisted that those were the places he would travel to. She and Con had done their best to persuade him to go university – you’re a bright boy… waste of talent… complete your studies first, decide on a career – then take a year off… but none of it had persuaded (or forced) him off his chosen path. A tingle of anticipation started in her fingertips and she tapped them softly on her chest as she lay on the bed. She’d always wondered where Joe’s adventurousness came from, but now she wondered whether it had lain dormant in herself all along.

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