Karma Brown’s debut novel is moving, spirited and realistic. Tegan and Gabe Lawson, a couple very much in love, were so excited to have their first child together. This all changed, however, when they experienced a dreadful car accident. This tragic event and the loss of her child transforms Tegan’s life into one riddled with blame and hopelessness, which conflate into insurmountable grief. Although she receives the untiring support of her family and friends, Tegan is still in a state of sorrow until Gabe reminds her of their Spontaneity Jar, a product of their young love and of youth itself. This special Jar holds their ideas, ambitions, and vivid dreams of faraway places. It’s a celebration of life, a tribute to adventure and a reminder to take each day as it comes.
The book is divided into five parts; each allocated to a different place or time in the lives of Tegan and Gabe. The young couple, spurred by their thirst for newness and hope, leave their home in Chicago and embark on an overseas trip to Italy, Hawaii and Thailand, where they try their hand at outdoor activities, interact with locals and discover new cultural activities, artefacts, languages and gastronomies. They try coconut bread, ride the tuk tuk in Thailand, surf waves and make new friendships. Brown’s descriptions of travelling and dealing with language barriers and culture shock are insightful and descriptive.
The non-linear narrative is interspersed with events leading up to the pivotal accident. This constant switching from past to present has a dramatic effect and evokes the rarely smooth response to the loss of a loved one. Furthermore, there is a doubled immediacy in that first person narrative and present tense are used to communicate Tegan’s sadness after the accident.
Brown’s book focuses primarily on questions surrounding the exclusively human experience of grief. How might the experience of ‘moving on’ affect our ways of viewing life and death? When the unexpected happens, how are we meant to respond? Brown’s novel opens windows in our understanding of the human condition. Her emotional and captivating book would be perfect for teens and adults.