Review: 'Prepare for Departure' a Thoughtful, Amusing Memoir

by Christopher Verleger

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday November 4, 2022

Author Mark Chestnut
Author Mark Chestnut  

Award-winning travel writer Mark Chestnut shares colorful stories and valuable advice about his career, childhood, religion, coming out, living in New York and Kentucky, caring for his 89-year-old mother, and (of course) travel, in his touching, inspirational, and extremely funny memoir, "Prepare for Departure: Notes on a Single Mother, a Misfit Son, Inevitable Mortality and the Enduring Allure of Frequent Flyer Miles."

The year is 2015, and Mark is living in Queens, New York, with his husband, Angel, when he and his sister, Glynn, arrange to have their mother, Eunice, moved to a nearby nursing home. 89-year-old Eunice has a brain tumor and is becoming more forgetful each day. Like any good son, Mark simply wants his mother to feel grounded and comfortable.

The book is divided into a collection of flashbacks where the author recounts childhood memories, including the death of his father, his hometown of Brockport, family visits to Kentucky, and the seemingly endless struggle to fit in as an adolescent. The alternating chapters provide a poignant, candid account of his mother's health and mindset, as Mark prepares — emotionally and logistically — for her departure.

The author's candor is equally entertaining and informative, and with every anecdote the reader better understands and appreciates his situation, as well as his close relationship with his mother. Eunice personifies Southern charm, which makes her an expert at accepting things as they are and not making a fuss. Mark does not have his mother's stoic disposition and continuously second-guesses himself.

Humorous highlights from his many walks down memory lane include his grandfather in drag, an airport shoplifting streak, an imaginary airline, his celebrity astrologer uncle, and the agony of school sports. More profound and especially powerful entries describe his father's WWII service, as well as the story behind a family sculpture in the shape of a heron and his decision to come out on Christmas Eve.

As a renowned travel writer, Chestnut has an incredible knack for detail and manages to make everything and everyone in his memoir feel inviting and familiar. "Prepare for Departure" dutifully serves as both a captivating collection of personal essays and a comprehensive guidebook to help one plan accordingly for the inevitable.

"Prepare for Departure" is available now from Vine Leaves Press.

Chris is a voracious reader and unapologetic theater geek from Narragansett, Rhode Island.