Odyssey of Love: A Memoir of Seeking and Finding by Linda Jämsén has been compared to Eat, Pray, Love. I get it. There are parallels — both women went around the world to find themselves. But I’m hoping that in the not so distant future Odyssey of Love is the book that another memoir will be compared to. It is just that amazing.
To quickly summarize the story. Linda is happy enough with her job but her personal life is much less fulfilling. Her longterm boyfriend has no interest in marriage although she thought he would propose on her birthday. Instead, her big gift came from her parents in the form of a check that they want the couple to use as the downpayment on a home. When a fortune teller explains that happiness lies in Europe where a Russian religious icon will lead Linda to the man of her dreams (tall, handsome, wearing glasses), Linda makes plans and the adventure begins. Her parent’s check paves the way for her to travels to and live in Hungary. She travels to Greece on vacation with a friend. While in Europe she is also researching her family tree and makes a brief, fateful stop in Helsinki, Finland on the way to Tallinn, Estonia.
My initial attraction to this book was the musical theme. Linda is a musician and lands a place in a chorus that travels all the way to Tel Aviv to perform. I love music, including the classical music that Linda loves, but I know next to nothing about it. If you had asked me who wrote Hungarian Rhapsody, my answer would have been a vacant stare. Now I know it was Franz Liszt. I spent a lot of time listening to Liszt while reading this book.
The fact that Linda’s journey may have been European but didn’t center on London, Paris, or Berlin, also appealed to me. I was eager to learn more about Eastern Europe from the perspective of someone who chose to live there. Linda describes the setting and the people, pulling you into the world she found and loved.
Although she had previously never taught, Linda paved the way for her extended European stay by training as an English-as-a-Second-Language teacher. This plot line also appealed to me because my father’s second career was teaching. Linda held a variety of teaching positions, each one taking her into a different experience and a new story for her eager readers.
Linda’s story is so rich and full that it will pull in a wide variety of readers. There’s romance and travel, music and family history and so much more. Open the cover and you are likely to find a thread that draws you in. That is clearly Linda’s gift.
My gift to you? The Best of Liszt.