Tuesday, January 14, 2014

5 Stars for Trailing: A Memoir (Kristin Louise Duncombe)


Trailing: A Memoir was VOTED ONE OF THE BEST INDIE BOOKS OF 2013! Something unexpected occurs when Kristin Louise Duncombe moves to New Orleans to begin her adult life as a psychotherapist: She falls madly in love with a Médecins Sans Frontières doctor, abandons all of her plans, and follows him on a medical mission to East Africa.

Faced with the dual culture shock of Kenya and life with the MSF team, Kristin struggles to craft a new existence in a context of mishap, witchcraft, and the life or death stakes of the MSF world. 

Just when she has managed to establish a life for herself in Nairobi, a violent carjacking catapults her into a state of acute post-traumatic stress, and her life thereafter devolves into a world of intense anxiety that permeates every aspect of her existence.

Forced to examine questions about her relationship, career, and personal identity, she struggles to save her marriage while facing the most difficult fight of her life: saving herself. Duncombe’s debut, as humorous as it is harrowing, provides an insider’s view of an MSF marriage and the humanitarian crisis in East Africa. Probing deeply into her tumultuous search for identity, she captures the essence of the experience with extraordinary authenticity and honesty. An altogether life-altering journey to the core of the human soul, Trailing: A Memoir is a compulsive page-turner, as fascinating as it is life affirming.


Kristin Louise Duncombe's Trailing tells the story of a young woman's discovery of herself while being married to a Médecins Sans Frontières doctor, a man who puts his own life behind saving people in poor countries. It would seem being married to a ‘saint’ should be any woman’s dream, but not true. Her husband is very self-absorbed, and displays little understanding of Kristin’s inner turmoil, even after the pressing fear she experienced when attacked by armed carjackers.

At first, I became angry towards the husband and then pitied Kristin. Later, I found myself seeing both sides. The husband started to be not a heroic doctor, but just an idealist who felt he had a calling of goodness, unfortunately these type of individuals often forget about the people who love them the most. Kristine was a woman in love, put on the back burner. Like her husband she too was self-sacrificing, but hers was never acknowledged.

The idea of moving with your husband to East Africa took a lot of guts, staying took even more. It took Kristin awhile to find herself in a foreign country in the midst of being alone and forgotten so often, and yes, sometimes she whined – so what! She’s human, and the important issue to remember is Kristin didn’t continue to whine. She persevered. Anybody with a need to be a strong independent, individual, only to have that need challenged, well, you’d expect a gripe or two.

Emily Dickinson said, “People need hard times and oppression to develop psychic muscles.”

I believe this is true for Kristin. She dealt with the difficulty of finding a job over and over; settling for cleaning toilets over her true occupation for a time. She dealt with her fears after being attacked in East Africa by armed  men. She dealt with Cholera, witnessing a whole camp full of sick people, seeing her husband work mercilessly, disregarding his self in the process. It’s hard to hate a guy like that, despite his flaws.

It is through all of this Kristin finds herself and answers to her marriage. This is an amazing memoir of self-discovery, not about the explicit details of Africa and all of the problems they face each and every day. If your looking for that, then, your looking for the wrong book. This book is about real people, facing real struggles, and that is what every book should have at the heart of it. 

It is well-written, and flows easily from one idea to the next. I read it in two days. It’s one of the first memoirs I’ve read that doesn’t bombard you with exposition, but breaks it up with dialogue, and into a real story in a linear structure.

I hope to see more of Kristin Louise Duncombe's works, because now I’m trailing behind her words of wisdom to women everywhere.

Kristin can be found at http://www.kristinduncombe.com/about/

You can find Trailing at Barnes&Noble and Amazon.com

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