In this collaborative effort, spiritual writer and novelist (The Secret Life of Bees, The Mermaid Chair), Sue Monk Kidd and her 22-year-old daughter Ann respond in alternating chapters to trips in Greece and France between 1998 and 2000. The accomplished writer reflects upon the challenges of aging and physical problems (high blood pressure) while the younger woman is still stinging from being rejected by a graduate school she desperately wanted to attend. Both of them are struggling with their inner journey of womanhood: one with the end and the other with the beginning. Dissatisfied with her relationship with Ann, Sue writes: "She is changing and I am changing, too, but we don't quite know how to shift the conversation between ourselves. How to reforge our connection." Her daughter notes: "We've been close since childhood, but I feel a kind of partition between us now, not anger or aloofness, but a room divider that properly marks the space: this is your territory, this is mine."
While Sue muses on the many manifestations of the Virgin Mary, Ann reflects on Joan of Arc. The journey becomes a workshop where they can come to terms with creativity, self-exploration, and the renewal of their intimate relationship as mother and daughter. It turns out to be a quest that is beneficial and healing for both of them.
In our book Spiritual Literacy, we quoted a passage from Sue Monk Kidd's Where the Heart Waits. It's a favorite of ours, one Mary Ann often quotes in radio interviews and bookstore talks as an example of the spiritual practice of enthusiasm. Here it is:
"When my daughter was small she got the dubious part of the Bethlehem star in a Christmas play. After her first rehearsal she burst through the door with her costume, a five-pointed star lined in shiny gold tinsel designed to drape over her like a sandwich board. 'What exactly will you be doing in the play?' I asked her.
" 'I just stand there and shine,' she told me. I've never forgotten that response."
It's nice to check in again with the Bethlehem star and her mother years later. In their own ways, they are still enthusiastic about the adventure and challenges of life.