Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment
by Katrina Kenison

Grand Central Publishing, 2013. ISBN 978-1-455-50723-8.
Reviewed by Khadijah A.
Posted on 02/13/2013

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Life Lessons; Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration

Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment came into my life at just the right time. This would not have surprised the book's author, Katrina Kenison, I am sure, as she writes often about the fact that life happens just as it should, despite all that we do; we simply have to "put one foot in front of the other."

At first glance, she and I do not have a lot in common. I am not yet at the time of my life that she is writing about in this book, when the children are out of the house (though not out of our hearts and lives). Indeed, my youngest is two years old. I am a Muslim, while she is a Buddhist. The differences are many. Yet, when I opened her book and began reading, I found that much of what she writes is universal, the harmony behind the gloriously different songs that are sung by women the world over.

Kenison writes honestly and evocatively of how her life changes when her youngest son leaves before she expects him to, leaving her and her husband alone in a home they built to house their family of four. Suddenly the role of "mom" that has defined her life for so many years is altered in a thousand different ways and she finds that she has to confront not only the emptiness of the house, but the empty spaces inside her own self.

With the passing of one of her dearest friends, Kenison's world, and her place in it, changes even more. Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment is about Kenison's spiritual journey to find her meaning and purpose as she waits to see what her new role is in this time of her life and what it will develop into. It is not so much a physical journey, though her search does take her on some of those, but an inner journey, as she explores who she is, and how she wants to face experiences and challenges:

The question that's haunted me for months now— "What am I going to do with the rest of my life?" —has come to feel a little less urgent, a little less complicated. has begun to answer itself. The next step is the one that's right in front of me. And perhaps the wisdom I've been searching for isn't really knowledge after all, but something more achievable, something right at hand, something closer to surrender.

Kenison also realizes that her journey is not hers alone, but rather one that is shared by many women, as we grow older and our roles shift and change, whether voluntarily or not. In Chapter 10, "Cleaning," I found a beautiful paragraph that ties in strongly with why I write, and why I encourage other women to share their stories as well. When cleaning house, getting rid of things and finding space for herself within her home, Kenison decides to teach a class for women who want to write about their lives. She writes, "What I want my students to learn in this room over the next six weeks is that our own ordinary voices deserve to be honored, our own real-life stories to be drawn forth, honed, shaped, and shared."

In honoring her own voice, Kenison gives us not a "how to" manual for facing midlife. Rather, she gives us permission to look inside, find our own voices, and begin our own individual journeys down all our separate paths.

Read an excerpt from this book.

A graduate of Smith College, Katrina Kenison spent many years working in publishing. She has co-authored Meditations from the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga and she co-edited the anthology Mothers: Twenty Stories of Contemporary Motherhood. Her writing has appeared in O, Real Simple, Country Living, Family Circle, Redbook, and other publications. Katrina lives in rural New Hampshire with her family and their faithful border collie, Gracie. Visit her website.

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