It’s not often that we find a book here on the blog that we want to review – but this one landed in our inbox and we were intrigued:
“Travels with an African Husky by John Martin Bradley is about a man (John) who loses his wife to cancer at the age of 38 and raises two small children. It is a journey from loss to happiness and is written as a series of vignettes describing things that happened, some desperately sad, but also lots of good things. Things that will make you cry and things that will make you laugh out loud. It is an inspiring and uplifting true story.”
In 2005 John’s 38-year-old wife died from cancer when their children were very young. Following her death, he moved with his two young children and two dogs to Cape Town where they lived for six years. They were adopted by a street dog husky who travelled with them back to England and onto Portugal, where they have now settled and live in Lagos. The book is their story and their journey.
Extract from the book (with permission of the author):
In Sickness and Health
She looked at me with such pain in her sunken eyes and whispered in a hoarse voice “ I feel so ashamed”.
“Six years ago we said ‘in sickness and health’”. I whispered back, looking into her eyes, stroking her face, still so beautiful in spite of everything, and said as reassuringly as I could, my voice shaking as I fought back the tears, “Nothing is too much trouble. Nothing”.
We held each other and sobbed. It was the worst moment of my life and hers too I think.
It was also the best.
She had become too weak to go to the bathroom on her own and of all the slings and arrows of sickness, this robbing of her dignity was one of the worst for her.
There was one thing worse. Something that weighed so heavily on her, in spite of her constant efforts to remain positive and strong, and that was the terrible realisation she would not get to see her children grow up. This, of all things, was too painful to bear.
Harriet passed away on April the 3rd 2005. Tilly was a week away from her second birthday and Thomas was not quite five.
This is an unsophisticated – yet charming – book.
Honest and entertaining – yet humble and unpretentious.
It reminded me of one of those old-fashioned blankets you find on a bed – made up of a series of knitted squares all placed together haphazardly into a patchwork of colours. And yet it is the holes between the colourful yarns that draw you in deeper and make you realise that the book has a deeper story below the surface – something that touches the heart of life itself and hints at an understanding of what life is really all about through its gentle and humble storytelling.
Let’s be honest – the book is not polished – and the author makes no apology for the book being a series of almost journal-like entries – often with little connection – but there is an honest charm to the writing – and a genuineness that shines through each page – and a disarming sense of an understanding of the here and now – and an ability to stop and savour – and recollect, those small moments of each day that collectively make up all of our days, and ultimately our lives.
As John says ” I wrote about things that hurt and things that made me laugh. I have tried to be honest, even though this has left me looking bad a lot of the time. And I wrote about things I thought people might find interesting or, most importantly, that might bring a smile to peoples’ faces.”
His descriptions of each destination in the book are like searching through a box of polaroid photographs with him – places are described, names and faces are brought to life, comical moments recalled with obvious pleasure, and awkward moments are recounted with gusto.
This is a man who likes to tell a good story – honestly and without embellishment – the kind of guy you’d like to meet in a local bar, buy him a Sagres lager and sit back and let him entertain you with his stories.
John’s early childhood and life are quite fascinating:
“I spent my early life in Jersey in the Channel Islands and parts of Africa and Borneo. My five years in Kota Kinabalu, in the shadow of the great mountain, were spent snorkelling on coral reefs, sailing in the dinghy my dad built me and generally running amok. I had no formal education until I moved to Nelson in New Zealand at the age of 10. At 14 my parents moved to Perth in Australia where I completed an economics degree and lived until I was 27. Two years travelling between Harare, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Toronto and Atlanta followed before spending 18 years in England.”
He is now a portrait and fine art photographer, and has also completed a fascinating project interviewing and photographing 28 remarkable old men in eight countries who were combat pilots in WWII. If you are interested in this you can find out more via this link Combat Pilots
But it is John’s descriptions in his book of his new life in Portugal which have particularly interested us and are quite charming – stories full of colour and characters that really bring Lagos to life for the reader.
As he walked Amy the husky around the town I could almost picture myself walking along beside him, stopping to talk to the same people, shopping in the same local shops, walking on the same empty beaches and enjoying the sense of community and the friendly welcome that the Algarve is famous for.
You want to ‘tidy’ up the book in places – to go back to the analogy used earlier –
the patchwork quilt is not perfect – there are three blue squares sat together but something stops you from pointing out to the author that there should be a yellow one in the middle – because those three blue squares together are the story – that’s real life there in those squares – things don’t go to a perfect plan – people – mothers – wives – do die far too young and leave two young children without their mother – which is desperately sad.
And yet – there is hope – and joy in the journey – despite the tragedy.
As John says:
“This is the story of that journey. A liberating story of healing while on a journey to where the sun shines. All held together by two kids and a husky with an overwhelming need to mother her pack.”
You can find out more information about the book via his website Travels with an African Husky
and you can even download the first 100 pages free via this link
Or purchase the book or kindle edition via these Amazon Links
We sincerely wish John and his family all the best with the book – and their life here in the Algarve.
Please note although we were sent a free copy of this book for review, all comments and thoughts are entirely our own. This was a delightful book to read and it is our pleasure to share it with our blog readers.
All images © John Martin Bradley, Travels with an African Husky, 2015