Is Your Life Phenomenal? Do You Wish It Were?

Cover of Phenomenal

The Story

How’s your sense of wonder these days?  In Phenomenal the author realized that life as an adult had washed her sense of self away.  In a bid to reconnect with who she was, she undertook a pilgrimage to experience moments of natural wonder.  Over several years, she wandered to all ends of the earth to experience wonder and miracles.  This journey not only led her from Africa to Sweden to Australia, it led her to look at her own life as a wonder and miracle.

While you may not have the time or inclination to travel across the world and find these huge wonderous experiences, Leigh Ann does a fantastic job weaving her home life and everyday moments into the story of her travels.  She relates the people that she meets and her research, to living at home and watching her son grow up.  Through her travels she comes to learn that the entire world is a wondrous place and that she can serve as the conduit for her son to see and experience that wonder.  Then, through her book, we as readers also get to join her on the journey of learning about the world and taking time to reflect on our own lives. We learn how we can be more appreciative of what we experience and offer to those around us.

Henion’s essays and articles have appeared in Smithsonian, Orion, and The Washington Post Magazine, among other publications. She has received a variety of accolades for her work, including a Lowell Thomas Award, and her stories have been noted in three editions of The Best American Travel Writing. Henion lives in the mountains of North Carolina.

Who Is Phenomenal For?

While this isn’t a high tension, action packed novel, it is a lovely journey around the globe and to the depths of what it is like to be a mother in the 21st century.  We all lose something along the path to adulthood, somewhere between finding out about boys and raising them.  In this gentle piece we can softly slip back into the world of our youth. It brings the knowledge that we belong in the world and not to it, back to our conscious thoughts.  If you are looking for a book that will allow you to learn about amazing natural phenomena, this is a book you will enjoy.  If you need to find a reason to get out and live, this book will remind you that life is for living, not bearing.

Borrow or Buy?

This is a tough one.  Phenomenal is considered either a self-help book, or an adventure story.  I guess it depends what you’re looking to get out of this novel.  If you see it as a resource, that you’ll reference from time to time to remind yourself about the things that are really important in life, then by all means purchase your own copy.  If you enjoy a story about all the wonderful things that can be found in the world, your will enjoy a borrowed version.


Phenomenal, Leigh Ann Henion, Penguin Books, New York, NY, 272 pages, $17.00, ISBN 978-0-14-310803-0


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