Monday, October 7, 2019

Book Review: 'Ordinary Magic' by Cameron Powell

Ordinary Magic: Promises I Kept to My Mother Through Life, Illness, and a Very Long Walk on the Camino de Santiago by [Powell, Cameron]
San Francisco author Cameron Powell states he is a six-time startup entrepreneur, consultant and coach, a largely repentant lawyer, and a semi-pro karaokist.’ Blessed with a keen sense of humor he is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder and Harvard Law School. In addition to writing Cameron is involved with work on blockchain and artificial intelligence. To date his books include TRUE HISTORY OF THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO and this splendid ORDINARY MAGIC.

There are times when the proffered plot synopsis of a book s a fine starting point before discussing the book’s values. It is offered here: ‘Cameron Powell has always struggled with goodbyes. On the day his marriage ends, he finds out his mother's cancer has returned-and this time there may be no escape. Faced with the prospect of more chemo and surgery, his German-born mother, Inge, vows to conquer a 500-mile trek across Spain, and Cameron pushes aside his fears to walk by her side. Joined by a misfit band of adventurers - a politically incorrect Spaniard, a theatrical Frenchwoman, a teenager who's never been far from home - Cameron and Inge write a fierce and funny travelogue about the rocky heights and hidden valleys of the Camino de Santiago. But the hardest stretch comes three years later, when Inge's health declines -- and Cameron, ready or not, must accept the challenge to remain as present to his mother as he can. As their journey shrinks to the room around a hospice bed, Cameron begins to record, in their blog, his real-time impressions of life's most difficult voyage. What he created is one of literature's great love letters and a uniquely unflinching insight into how we all truly can create love and meaning in our lives, even amidst the fear and sadness we’ll all face from time to time.’

Well written and to the point, but what that overview only hints is the power of the message Cameron shares with his readers. Yes, the first ‘trip’ is hilarious and immensely entertaining – a fine substrate for a film. The Last Camino around Inge’s hospice bed becomes a deeply felt meditation on the true meanings of love, courage, manhood, and the loving kindness (even duty) of being present to those who are dying. Cameron’s notes cum book become a radiant story of loyalty, resilience, empowerment, and growth of that too nebulous subject of accompany the last conversation or the last exit from the living.

This book will remain on the bedside table for us to absorb each time we say goodbye to a departing loved one. Magic it is, and we are the recipients of Cameron’s sensitivity and warmth. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, June 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.