The Farewell Tour
Momma Leighellen's Book Review
I’m going to try to do this book justice with this review but first I must say, TRUST ME. READ THIS BOOK. Don’t be put off by the “country” theme if that’s not your jam. Yes, The Farewell Tour has country music in it but it’s not necessarily ABOUT country music.
“You can’t be a public person and decide which parts of your life you talk about and which parts you don’t.” “So many damed stories I had to tell to make myself palatable to the world.” – The Farewell Tour
I went into this thinking this was going to be some tell all of a fake country legend. Maybe a mock up of one of the greats like Dolly Parton or Reba McEntire. But that’s not what this book is at all.
This is an incredibly powerful look at one woman’s life, filled with trauma and pain, and the ways she pushed it aside, dealt with it in unhealthy ways, but inevitably chased it down, came face to face with her past, and healed. Yes, she’s a country singer, but that’s almost secondary to what she really is. She is a strong woman who has survived unspeakable trauma. It is a beautiful story of coming to terms with your past. It’s also the story of the West, and those who’s stories still haven’t been told.
“The story of the West was the story of men. It was told at country fairs and Pioneer Days and rodeos. And the women? Look carefully, you can see us at the edges leaning over an oven, bending over a broom. Bearing children, calling our me to supper, shoring them up for the next days trials. The women’s trials, they stayed behind doors.” – The Farewell Tour
The story follows the life of a country singer from Walla Walla named Lillian. As she plans her Farewell Tour, she looks back at her life. From farm girl to waitress, back up singer, to chart topper.
As she goes back through the years, things slowly click into place and the memories that have protected her for years also reveal a deep, dark secret.
“Music was the only promise there was something in the world for me” – The Farewell Tour
Part of me adored this story because I lived in Seattle for twenty years. My husband’s family still lives in Tacoma. So to learn these parts of its musical history was a unique story I hadn’t heard before. You can tell the author loves the area and colors the descriptions with her memories and research.
“Every local had a theory on what created the Tacoma Aroma; the oil refinery, the Simpson pulp mill, or the canal of the City Waterway. It suited Tacoma; this was a working mans town.” – The Farewell Tour
But what made me love this story most is that’s its the story of so many women and those without a voice. It’s about things we choose to do to get ahead. The lies we tell each other and ourselves to stomach our pasts. The things we make ourselves forget so we can move forward. The ways we placate, deviate, make our selves smaller, and stay silent.
“Men get to live deliberately. I was closed in at home while the boys got to do what they please. I was hemmed in even when I was a little girl. The boys got messy and shouted, while girls played neat games like jacks or jump rope.” – The Farewell Tour
Along the way, the author pulls in other tales form this era of the West including racism in the armed forces, sexism in the music industry, the mass detaining of asian citizens in internment camps, the immigrant experience, the forced migration of indigenous peoples. She handles these big, heavy topics with dignity and grace. Melding the stories together in a way that highlights how we are slowly recreating history with more truth.
“How many of us didn’t just want to be daughters and sisters, mothers and wives, but people with names, women whose stories might not yet appear in primers, whose work might not yet fill up history books, but who still belong in the West.” – The Farewell Tour
By telling her story, she tells their story, which is OUR story.
“What I could do was show that they – we- were HERE. That this was our place too. I could show how we, imperfect, broken, lost, gone, silence, were always part of the story.” – The Farewell Tour
And that’s the power of this story. To have these hidden stories be told, these histories revealed, so that healing can begin. This book was SO MUCH MORE than I expected, which is why it snuck up on me a bit. I had no idea it was going to be so thoughtful and deep. Maybe it’s better that I went in blind so I could be delighted with this gem.
Thank you to Stephanie Clifford for sending me an ARC of this book and chatting about it via IG Live. Check out the video above to hear our discussion. I alternated between reading the book and listening to the audio, and can highly recommend both. The audio narrator did a wonderful job making Water Lil come to life and even added some songs to the mix. Thank you Harper Collins for an early review copy and Harper Audio for the incredible Libro.FM audiobook.
You can pick up a copy of the book here. To read more of my reviews, check out the rest of my blog. To enter the latest giveaways and see what I’m currently reading, head to my Bookstagram account in IG. And to listen to me chat all things bookish and share my latest reviews, head to my Booktube Channel. To try the book on audio go here!