- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Gallery Books (May 19, 2015)
In the vein of Jojo Moyes and Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, a warm and touching novel about a woman who embarks on a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral after losing her mother, sharing life lessons—in the best Chaucer tradition—with eight other women along the way.
Che Milan’s life is falling apart. Not only has her longtime lover abruptly dumped her, but her eccentric, demanding mother has recently died. When an urn of ashes arrives, along with a note reminding Che of a half-forgotten promise to take her mother to Canterbury, Che finds herself reluctantly undertaking a pilgrimage.
Within days she joins a group of women who are walking the sixty miles from London to the shrine of Becket in Canterbury Cathedral, reputed to be the site of miracles. In the best Chaucer tradition, the women swap stories as they walk, each vying to see who can best describe true love. Che, who is a perfectionist and workaholic, loses her cell phone at the first stop and is forced to slow down and really notice the world around her, perhaps for the first time in years.
Through her adventures along the trail, Che finds herself opening up to new possibilities in life and discovers that the miracles of Canterbury can take surprising forms.
Buy, read, and discuss The Canterbury Sisters
Kim Wright is the author of Love in Mid Air, The Unexpected Waltz, and The Canterbury Sisters. Loving dogs, wine, travel, mediation and ballroom dance.
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My first introduction to Kim Wright’s work was years ago, when I reviewed Love in Mid Air, just before my 40th birthday. Five years later, and just a couple months before I reach 45, I requested this title from NetGalley, and was delighted to be approved.
Wright’s writing style has matured a little (as have we all) in the five years since I first began reading her; she was great before, now, she’s damned near perfect. As is The Canterbury Sisters.
I took a class in Chaucer when I was in college, and, of course, I’d read his unfinished novel The Canterbury Tales before that, as all well-rounded readers should do, so I wasn’t surprised when the diverse group of women on the “Broads Abroad” trip to walk the Canterbury Trail agreed to take turns telling stories. What did surprise me – pleasantly so – was how distinct each woman was, and how their stories were both specific to each character, but universal to all women.
Of course, I was most interested in Che, because she’s the POV character, and it’s her through eyes that we meet the other women in her group – a group she remains on the fringes of, throughout the novel, as she deals, not just with the walk itself, but with the recent loss of her free-spirited, feminist mother (who, actually, reminded me a lot of my own mother, but only in a good way), and the fact that her longtime lover has dumped her. On top of it, she managed to leave her phone somewhere, which just increases her sense of isolation. (And, I confess, I was twitching on her behalf, tech-addict that I am.)
While the novel is peppered with interesting tidbits about Chaucer, Beckett, Canterbury, etc., it is absolutely a contemporary story, one where there are few male characters, except at the periphery of things. It’s not specifically women’s fiction (and I do so hate that term), but it’s fiction of and about women, and I found it refreshing that there was no goal of finding true romance. If anything, all these characters were on a mission to find peace, love, and happiness with, and within, themselves.
The Canterbury Sisters made me wish I were better at making women-friends, and gave me a deeper appreciation for the women – friends and relatives – already in my life.
Goes well with a hearty peasant’s pie and a glass of hard cider.