Rating: 4 stars
Heartfelt and awe inspiring, Leigh Ann Henion’s Phenomenal is a moving tale of physical grandeur and emotional transformation, a journey around the world that ultimately explores the depths of the human heart. A journalist and young mother, Henion combines her own conflicted but joyful experiences as a parent with a panoramic tour of the world’s most extraordinary natural wonders. Phenomenal begins in hardship: with Henion deeply shaken by the birth of her beloved son, shocked at the adversity a young mother faces with a newborn. The lack of sleep, the shrinking social circle, the health difficulties, all collide and force Henion to ask hard questions about our accepted wisdom on parenting and the lives of women. Convinced that the greatest key to happiness—both her own and that of her family—lies in periodically allowing herself to venture into the wider world beyond home, Henion sets out on a global trek to rekindle her sense of wonder.
Henion’s quest takes her far afield, but it swiftly teaches her that freedom is its own form of parenting, one that ultimately allows her to meet her son on his own terms: with a visceral understanding of the wonder he experiences every day at the fresh new world. Whether standing on the still-burning volcanoes of Hawai’i or in the fearsome lightning storms of Venezuela, in the vast animal movements of Tanzania or the elegant butterfly migrations of Mexico, Henion reveals in Phenomenal a world of sublimity and revelation.
Henion’s spiritual wanderlust puts her in the path of modern-day shamans, reindeer herders, and astrophysicists. She meets laypeople from all over the world, from all walks of life, each going to great lengths to chase migrations, auroras, eclipses, and other phenomena. These seekers trust their instincts, follow their passions, shape their days into the lives they most want to lead. And somewhere along the way, Leigh Ann Henion becomes one of them.
A breathtaking memoir, Phenomenal reveals unforgettable truths about motherhood, spirituality, and the beauty of nature.
Upon picking up this book, I discovered how much I really enjoyed reading it. I found this book to be a phenomenal read because it inspired in me a sense of wonder about the world around us. It brought to light how much of the world I have yet to see and how each of us in everyday life can find something to live in awe over. Hearing this incredible journey to see natural phenomena in our everyday world from the perspective of a journalist struggling to fit in her travels while still having time with her son really made me captivated to continue reading this memoir.
I found Phenomenal to be an enjoyable read for other reasons as well. I really enjoyed hearing about all of the different places Leigh Ann traveled to, from seeing the Northern Lights in Sweden to going to see a volcano eruption in Hawaii. I also enjoyed her conversations with people from different walks of life about their culture and their own beliefs and how she was able to reflect on all of those different conversations to try and make sense of the world we live in. I found Phenomenal to be a memoir that not only kept me thinking, but also inspired in me the need to travel and see the wonderful sights the world around us has to offer.