Book Review: Global Mom

Melissa Dalton-Bradford and I are like two circles on a Venn diagram that don’t quite touch. She was a missionary companion of one of my best friends.

She commuted into New York City to perform in a Broadway musical at the same time that my family and I lived on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. And the Dalton-Bradfords now live minutes away from my husband’s family in Switzerland. It seems like we should have met by now, but we haven’t.

I didn’t know any of the above when I volunteered to review her newly published memoir, Global Mom. All I knew was that she and her husband had raised their children all over the world, something I had hoped my husband and I would do when he graduated from law school. Alas, that was not our trajectory, so reading Global Mom was for me an exercise in vicarious living.

Dalton-Bradford retells her expat adventures with vivid detail and funny, self-deprecating anecdotes. She and her husband work hard to embrace the language and culture wherever they find themselves. Their children have an easier time of it, learning Norwegian at the local barnepark in Norway; French at school in Versailles and Paris; German in Munich; and Mandarin in Singapore. At the end of the book, the family finds itself living in Geneva; who knows where future job transfers might take them next?

Since she is writing to a general audience, Dalton-Bradford discusses the church only in passing. Wherever she lives, she mentions finding comfort and support in her ward, and she and her family serve in a variety of capacities. Later in the book, for reasons that will become apparent, she is more overt in mentioning prayer and the way her faith sustains her.

The Norway and France chapters take up two-thirds of the book and are light, warm, and exuberant in tone. But then, just as the family is about to move to Germany, tragedy strikes. The Bradford’s oldest son, Parker, heads to Idaho as a college freshman; days later, he dies in a water accident. The family’s struggle to come to terms with devastating loss colors its life in the years that follow; the reader sees Munich and Singapore only through the hazy lens of grief. In describing her ordeal, Dalton-Bradford writes with courage, painful honesty, and hope.

I have a small wish list of things I think could have improved the mostly excellent memoir. The very first chapters are a bit overwritten, their self-conscious prose distracting from the stories they are telling. Throughout the book, I felt somewhat removed from Dalton-Bradford’s husband and children, seeing them only from her perspective. She often employs dialogue, but it is almost always used to illustrate a difficulty with language or culture, and doesn’t otherwise offer the immediacy that I enjoy in a memoir. Finally, I wish I could give a stern lecture to the book’s publisher, Familius. Significant typos can be found throughout, and a line editor worth his or her salt should have caught them all.

But these complaints are minor. I find myself recommending Global Mom to just about anyone: other parents; anyone living “in the mission field”; people who dream of living abroad; and those who love to travel, if only via the pages of a book.

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Global Mom”

  1. I am reading the book right now. I found the same problem with the prose at the beginning of the book as it is somewhat distracting. However, other than that, I am really enjoying the stories that she shares. I see a lot of connections between our families. I moved to Sweden with two small children and experienced some similar things in adapting to the culture and mentality of a Scandinavian country. I’m looking forward to the rest of the book.

  2. Many thanks, Luisa, for reading and reviewing my memoir with such a clear eye. Reading takes precious time; writing takes much, much more. Your thoughtful analysis, sensitivity and careful critique are invaluable to me, and will help me with my upcoming writing projects. (There are several percolating in the pipeline.)

    One disclaimer: I never signed a Broadway-broadway contract, but an Off-Broadway one. Still, you and I were pretty darned close in that Venn diagram!

    Another disclaimer: Sadly, you might have received one of those few hundred bootleg copies of the book that accidentally went to press a month prematurely and from an early, unfinished file. Makes me sick at heart, but what can you do? Next printing, coming out in October, will be clean.

    Again, thanks for your insightful review. I’m indebted to every reader and every reviewer.

  3. This is only somewhat related to this discussion, but my children and I often go visit Monkey Rock, and we see Parker’s memorial and the poem. My kids know his name & we talk about how he saved other people every time we go there. Anyway.

  4. Sarah,

    Thanks for this gentle word, and for paying a visit to Parker’s memorial stones at Monkey Rock.

    As you know from reading the plaques there, Parker did try to save his classmate, but there were others involved later on the scene, who risked their safety to help those trapped in the dangerous culvert. We are grateful for them. A student and former lifeguard, notably, tried to get ahold of the two original bodies, plus two more who’d been sucked in when a human chain (led by Parker) broke. Two were pulled out, one was flushed out by force of the water and received CPR, and Parker remained pinned. He flushed out many minutes later, already blue, and fell head first over lava rock falls downstream. He received CPR and priesthood blessings.

    So while Parker alone didn’t “save” anyone, he did die trying.

    Again, thank you.

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