Book Review: The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles

The following is a guest post by Maddie. A courtesy copy of The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles was provided; reviews and opinions are all her own.

I’m very excited to introduce a new type of post at Elaine Loves: book reviews! My friend and book lover Maddie (Toronto Beauty Reviews contributor) will be sharing with you some of her favourite reads and reviewing new releases throughout the year. In fact, let’s start a virtual book club! If you’re reading one of the books covered here, tag a pic with #elainelovesbooks and let us know your thoughts!

Book Review: The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles

{Roadtripping Through Grief:
A Review of The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles}

 

Author: Laura Fahrenthold
Publisher: Hatherleigh Press
Book Type: Memoir
Price: $20.00
Reminded Me Of: It’s Okay to Laugh (Crying Is Cool Too) by Nora McInerny Purmort

 

Summary

After her husband’s sudden death from a heart attack, Laura Fahrenthold felt all the feelings. Anger, sorrow, pain, frustration, fear, panic, numbness, confusion – and that was just within the first few days of his passing. In the weeks and months that followed, she and her two young daughters tried to find a new normal as a family of 3.

 

Wiping away the tears that had splashed down his face and neck, I made promises I knew I could keep – to honor, remember, and to respect him always. To be the best mother I could be. To stand tall, the three of us together, with him and for him. (p. 13)

 

For a while, they all got by – at least on the surface – but it wasn’t until Laura decided to bring Mark’s ashes on a summer camping trip with her girls that Laura’s true path through grief became clear. What followed was a two-summer, 30 000 mile road trip to teach her girls about resilience, to find joy in the sorrow, and to let Mark see his favourite places one last time. The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles details Laura’s journey to figure out just what to do next when the worst happens.

 

What I Loved

Chronicles handles an emotional and challenging subject matter in a frank, often funny, way. It doesn’t try to be a grief manual or a reverential retelling of Mark’s life. Rather, its guiding principle seems to be honesty. Fahrenthold doesn’t hold back from providing the (somewhat violent) details of Mark’s death, insight into the ups and downs of their relationship, how his passing gutted her, and how she rebuilt herself and her family – all while maintaining a healthy dose of sarcasm and realness.

“One of the hardest things about losing a loved one is that a major part of you dies with them, yet you are expected to carry on as though you are still a whole person. That’s why people shouldn’t say things like, ‘He’s in a better place now.’ Oh, you’ve been there? Tell me, what does his new house look like?” (p. 154)

The writing style of Chronicles is very accessible, making it easy for readers to connect with Laura’s struggle. The pain she feels is evident – it screams through some pages – but so, too, are the determination and the love that keep her going through the darkest times. This is a book about mourning that won’t have you sobbing at every page, but rather can provide comfort, commiseration, and a good laugh or two, or even an “OMG!” moment in the midst of sadness. After all, Chronicles isn’t a book about Mark’s death; it’s a book about what Laura does afterwards.

 

What Didn’t Work For Me

In some ways, I was less impacted by this book than I had anticipated. I was going through a loss of my own at the time I was reading it, and I sometimes felt a disconnect between my own heavy heart and the shifting tone of this memoir. Of course, if I’ve learned anything from this book, it’s that grief is highly personal, so perhaps this did allow me to find my own way to mourn. It certainly allowed me to laugh much earlier than I thought I would be able to.

One aspect of the book that felt unnecessary, however, was the inclusion of quotes from Mark’s writing at the beginning of each chapter. Some of the passages were meaningful, but many just felt overwrought – summoning the slight cringeyness you might feel, for example, when re-reading your stories from Creative Writing 101 after a few years’ dispassionate distance. Eventually, I just skipped the quotes and went right into the chapters themselves.

 

I Would Recommend This For:

Those going through loss or comforting a loved one who is. Particularly those who are looking for a candid account of mourning and its frustrations, challenges, revelations and absurdities. (Content Warning: some readers may be upset by vivid descriptions of Mark’s final moments and autopsy.)

 

Have you ever taken a trip like this? Do you think it would help you through a tough time?

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