Rickardsson was born as Christiana Mara Coelho in extreme poverty, and moved to northern Sweden, separated from her family, at the age of eight. Never Stop Walking is her memoir, telling the story of her childhood as well as her travels to Brazil as an adult in search of answers and lost memories.
In her own words: “This is the story of my childhood in Brazil, about the culture shock I experienced when I arrived in the forests of northern Sweden and about the loss of the people I loved most. It’s about what I remember of my childhood in the Brazilian wilderness, on the streets of São Paulo, in the orphanage. And it’s about my early days in Sweden, when I found myself dropped into a place and life that couldn’t have been in sharper contrast to what I had known.”
The structure of alternating chapters between her childhood and return trip could reflect her early statement that she has two different selves: Christina and Cristiana. The memoir is perhaps not just a reunion for Christina and her family, but also a way of uniting these two selves. The themes of identity and home were present throughout Rickardsson's memoirs, as they have been in other books we've looked at recently.
Her stories of living in a cave, in severe poverty, and the shocking abuse faced by street children are hard to read at times. But at our Book Club meetup in Stockholm, we discussed how surprisingly free of bitterness these stories are, and how clear her message that we must all make the most of whatever opportunity is afforded us.
And there were moments of lightness, joy, and even relatable humour, for example on her return to Brazil as an adult when she is amazed at the size of avocados.
One moment in the book that struck me was when Christina's family members are speaking over each other and give lengthy responses to yes/no questions. She realizes that she does the same thing, and has this apparently Brazilian trait despite having lived in Sweden for so long and lost the language completely.
“Absolutely loved it. Easy read,” commented Elle Bushfield. “I would enjoy a sequel that went into specifics about her life in Sweden.”
“I loved this book. It was so raw and unapologetic,” said Samantha Hammell. “She owned everything that happened to her without feeling sorry for herself. It was the most honest account I have ever read. It resonates because having to reinvent myself three times in three different countries, the feeling of displacement sometimes is overwhelming. But she did it.
“I admire Christina, she has guts and the courage to go back to her roots. Her ethos is that our past doesn’t define us, we have a choice of what person we become. The book reflects that. There are some not-quite-tied loose ends but maybe her next book will explain them. I had tears in my eyes at times and it was tough to read but a compelling one for sure.”
Reader Helen Davies said she would recommend the memoir to anyone who has experienced a move to Sweden from elsewhere. “Although her childhood in Brazil was hard to read about, she didn't want the reader to feel sorry for her. In fact, she writes that there was more joy and laughter in Brazil than her adopted country, but still one does feel anger at the poverty and bad treatment of the street children which continues today,” said Helen.
What to read next: If you enjoyed Never Stop Walking, I recommend reading All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung. This is a memoir by a Korean-born woman who was adopted by a white American family, where she discusses her personal experience of interracial adoption and talks about growing up and eventually returning to her roots.
Join The Local Sweden's Book Club on Facebook and sign up to our newsletter to receive updates and highlights from the group, and to have your say in what we read next. In September, Book Club members have voted to read Wolf Winter by Cecilia Ekbäck, a historical thriller.
And feel free to get in touch by email (Members of The Local can log in to comment below) if you have book suggestions, opinions on this month's book, or any other ideas for the Book Club.