The Vagabond Mother by Tracey Scott-Townsend
What a pleasure it is to be included on the tour for The Vagabond Mother, the new novel by Tracey Scott-Townsend. The Tour is run by Love Books group and you can follow it here.
All Maya Galen wanted was a happy family, stifling her inner urges to explore the wider world for the sake of being there for her children. But parenting with her husband, Con, wasn’t always easy. Their eldest son, Jamie, broke off all contact some years ago and now Joe, the apple of her eye, has done the same after an argument with his parents about his chosen way of life. Maya and Con are left rattling around ‘The Cottages’ – their enormous home in a Lincolnshire village, wondering what they did wrong.
When they are called to Australia to identify the body of a young man, Maya is given her son’s journal. After a sleepless night she makes the decision to follow in her youngest son’s footsteps and become a vagabond, leaving her husband and daughters to return to the UK without her. From now on she needs to rely on her own physical and emotional strength.
Following Joe’s hand-drawn maps and journal entries, Maya travels from Australia to Denmark and beyond, meeting many young people like Joe along the way and trying to discover what it means to be alive. As months turn into years she can’t bear to go back to the opression of her perfect home. Slowly, she comes to understand that what she is discovering is her most basic human self.
Another family crisis, involving one of her twin daughters, eventually forces Maya to return home. As she treads carefully through the wreckage of her marriage, unfinished business is tied up and the family once again becomes complete, but in a different way from before.
Melbourne, Australia. November 2014
Somebody brought them pale, sweet tea. Not exactly hot. Maya wondered how many corridors the tray had been carried down before reaching them. The remaining members of their family each held a cup between their shaking hands.
‘But I don’t take sugar,’ said Lola. Her eyes looked enormous to Maya, bewildered. Just like when she was a toddler and the health visitor had given her a sugar cube after a vaccination. The sugar in her tea would no more take away her pain now than the cube had done then.
A woman, – a nurse perhaps – spoke to Lola in a gentle voice. ‘You ought to drink the tea darl. It’ll help with the shock.’
Maya saw Daisy encouraging her twin by taking the first sip. it was always Daisy’s mouth Maya had aimed for first with the feeding spoon when they were babies, as Lola would copy her sister. On Maya’s other side sat a white-faced man whom she recognised as her husband. Con’s hand lifted a cup to his lips in a mechanical sort of way, and brown liquid leaked down his chin. Maya found that she had taken tea into her own mouth. She watched her hand reflecting Con’s movements.
‘Are you ready, Sir?’ The officer reappeared in the room, directing his question at Maya’s husband.
‘Yes.’ Con placed his cup somewhere to one side. He stood but his body immediately collapsed back onto the chair. He tried again.
‘Where are you going?’ Maya surprised herself with the loudness of her voice. She snapped her mouth shut.
‘Madam forgive me,’ said the officer. What the hell for, he hadn’t killed her son, had he? ‘I’m taking your husband to identify the body.’
Tracey’s novels have been described as both poetic and painterly. She is also a poet and a visual artist. All her work is inspired by the emotions of her own experiences and perceptions. She has a Fine Art MA (University of Lincoln) and a BA Hons Visual Studies (Humberside Polytechnic). She has exhibited throughout the UK (as Tracey Scott). Most importantly, she is the mother of four grown-up children, who have astonished and inspired her.
Tracey and her husband Phil travel regularly in their campervan with their two dogs, and next year plan to buy and convert a library van as a more permanent home.