A fine example of the hybrid nature-memoir.

ROUGH BEAUTY

FORTY SEASONS OF MOUNTAIN LIVING

These outstanding autobiographical essays explore solitude, traumatic events, and a deep commitment to place.

Auvinen (Film/Univ. of Colorado Boulder), former Colorado artist-in-residence and two-time Academy of American Poets award recipient, charts a decade of life “ordered by weather and wildlife” on the Front Range of the Rockies. She prized her independence, funding her writing with three part-time jobs and finding companionship in her husky mix, Elvis. But when her cabin burned down, destroying all her work in progress, she had to accept help and discovered that her small town was a true community. After the fire’s climactic prologue, the book gracefully fills in events either side: her early years and how she rebuilt her life. Growing up, Auvinen felt oppressed by Catholic doctrine and her Air Force father’s slaps. She gives excellent pithy descriptions of her family dynamics: “In my family, women were parsley on the plate—accessories”; “Men did things, women watched.” When her parents’ marriage ended, she and her mother and sister banded together; she even took her mother’s maiden name in a power play that alienated male relatives. In the post-fire years, her mother’s health problems were a major concern, as was Elvis’ decline into old age. Anyone who has ever cherished and lost a pet will agree with her that this kind of love “is no small thing.” The turning seasons (“March was thick with anticipation—the pendulum between winter and spring”) and rhythms of small-town life form a meditative backdrop. Nature—whether gardening, camping, or close encounters with bears and a fox—speaks of wonder and solace. Toward the close, Auvinen writes of diving into a relationship with artist Greg Marquez, the book’s illustrator, and a place enjoyed in solitude became one freely shared. The author has served a long apprenticeship—sensing life’s patterns, becoming embedded in a human community, learning to give and receive love—and the result is a beautiful story of resilience perfect for readers of Terry Tempest Williams.

A fine example of the hybrid nature-memoir.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5228-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

INTO THE WILD

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

Did you like this book?

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and...

THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS

A dense, absorbing investigation into the medical community's exploitation of a dying woman and her family's struggle to salvage truth and dignity decades later.

In a well-paced, vibrant narrative, Popular Science contributor and Culture Dish blogger Skloot (Creative Writing/Univ. of Memphis) demonstrates that for every human cell put under a microscope, a complex life story is inexorably attached, to which doctors, researchers and laboratories have often been woefully insensitive and unaccountable. In 1951, Henrietta Lacks, an African-American mother of five, was diagnosed with what proved to be a fatal form of cervical cancer. At Johns Hopkins, the doctors harvested cells from her cervix without her permission and distributed them to labs around the globe, where they were multiplied and used for a diverse array of treatments. Known as HeLa cells, they became one of the world's most ubiquitous sources for medical research of everything from hormones, steroids and vitamins to gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, even the polio vaccine—all without the knowledge, must less consent, of the Lacks family. Skloot spent a decade interviewing every relative of Lacks she could find, excavating difficult memories and long-simmering outrage that had lay dormant since their loved one's sorrowful demise. Equal parts intimate biography and brutal clinical reportage, Skloot's graceful narrative adeptly navigates the wrenching Lack family recollections and the sobering, overarching realities of poverty and pre–civil-rights racism. The author's style is matched by a methodical scientific rigor and manifest expertise in the field.

Skloot's meticulous, riveting account strikes a humanistic balance between sociological history, venerable portraiture and Petri dish politics.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4000-5217-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

more