My first reading of Parker Palmer‘s book, On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old, occurred sometime between late 2018 and early 2019. I found great comfort in it then, and I am in my second reading. It’s even better now.
My second round of reading On the Brink of Everything began when I picked it up from my desk one day shortly after the pandemic began in March 2020. When I seek comfort, peace, and light, I turn to the Bible, prayer, or the words of believers. Palmer is one of those believers. On the Brink had brought me comfort before, along with a tasty tidbit of humor here and there. Why not give it a second go? Continue reading
It has been a while since I’ve posted reviews of memoirs I’ve read. Perhaps the most efficient way to catch up is to present them as shorter reviews. I hope the shorter format will be helpful in highlighting for you three of my favorites.
Remember, one of the best pieces of advice for those writing memoirs is to read the work of others sharing their life stories.
Sandra Miller‘s memoir, Trove: A Woman’s Search for Truth and Buried Treasure, is a National Book Award Winner. A reviewer might feel inclined to let that honor stand as its review. But you need to know that Miller’s search for buried treasure isn’t all about a large chest filled with gold.
Miller’s writing is colloquial and thus allows you to feel like you are sitting over coffee or tea chatting with a friend. As a result, Trove is hard to put down. Miller’s words are honest and heartfelt while filled with courage and authenticity. I found myself cheering her on in her search for the feeling we have all experienced at one time or another in our lives—the feeling of regret and confusion in middle age. This is one memoir that I have kept on my shelf of favorites. I highly recommend it.
Marcia Butler is the author of The Skin Above My Knee. She is also a professional oboist and has played with many world-renowned orchestras and symphonies. And yet Butler has led a life filled with stresses in her childhood home resulting from a detached mother and an abusive father. The oboe represents her lifeline to sanity as she moves through other difficult relationships and bad choices.
Through her truthful narrative, Butler shows how music can offer the benefits of healing and strengthening the human soul.
My favorite line from Butler’s memoir is: “You love to feel stable within music’s velvety language.”
An inspiring story that shouldn’t be missed.
“A touching and intimate correspondence between Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, offers timeless wisdom and a revealing glimpse into their lives.”
The correspondence referenced here happened as the result of a busy man and his 91-year-old mother agreeing to change their relationship by committing to a year-long conversation. This agreement came about following a brief but serious illness experienced by Vanderbilt.
One could describe their letters as a son’s love letters to his mother and a mother’s life lessons to her son. This memoir is beautiful and affectionate as well as a truthful celebration of life. A must-read!
These three memoirs have been waiting in the wings far too long. It is my pleasure to offer you good writing examples, perhaps even different formats such as that used by Cooper and Vanderbilt in sharing their story. All of these books can be found on Goodreads.
Happy reading and writing,
Note: Please see Disclosures for information regarding any links from which you might purchase a book or other materials.
Sitting here in the Pacific NW in mid-April, dark gray days with rain one day, snow the next. Sometimes wind and thunderstorms. Dumping of hail yesterday; it lingers still. I watch for nature’s population. Mary Oliver had a unique perspective on nature as can be seen in her poem, On Winter’s Margin.
I had another post underway for today, but our weather patterns in Oregon have been rather strange. Maybe they are mystifying where you live as well. One day last week we enjoyed a sunny day with a temperature of 75. Then our weather predictors began talking snow from the height of the mountains down to the valley floor where we live. My first paragraph above describes this week, so far. These conditions drew me to Oliver’s poem.
Now sit back and enjoy Mary Oliver’s poem. As always, Oliver fills her stanzas with an understanding of shadow and light both in nature and in human nature.
ON WINTER'S MARGIN by Mary Oliver On winter’s margin, see the small birds now With half-forged memories come flocking home To gardens famous for their charity. The green globe’s broken; vines like tangled veins Hang at the entrance to the silent wood. With half a loaf, I am the prince of crumbs; By snow’s down, the birds amassed will sing Like children for their sire to walk abroad! But what I love, is the gray stubborn hawk Who floats alone beyond the frozen vines; And what I dream of are the patient deer Who stand on legs like reeds and drink that wind; - They are what saves the world: who choose to grow Thin to a starting point beyond this squalor. ~~ From Famous Poets & Poems
The Well Rising
with care in such a world.