A unique and ambitious contribution to the annals of the memoir genre. It tells the story of a Washington, D.C. journalist-turned-lobbyist who disguises his bipolar disorder as well as his estrangement from his parents and heads out on a five-week cross-country U.S. road trip, engaging with creative and generous individuals who trigger in the author a yearning to pursue an authentic, art-committed life.
To embrace that life, however, would require tremendous change. He would need to break with his funders, face down his fear of a bipolar spiral that might endanger his relationship with his wife and children, and come to terms with his family legacy of mental illness. The book's intricately woven narrative lines form a brutally honest self-portrait of fear, loss, and growth.
Patrick Ross took me on a five-week road trip from Portland, Maine, to my hometown of Portland, Oregon. I should clarify and point out that it wasn't a journey we made together, in the same vehicle, on the same plane or train. It's what I felt as a I read Patrick's memoir, Committed: A Memoir of the Artist's Road.
I have followed Patrick's blog, The Artist's Road, on and off for the last several years. When he posted recently that his memoir was almost ready to launch, I emailed and offered a review. I was so pleased that Patrick took me up on my offer, especially after I had read the first few pages.
Evocative of William Least Heat-Moon's famous, Blue Highways, Patrick, by this time a journalist-turned-lobbyist, travels from one end of our country to the other interviewing artists of a variety of genre--painters, musicians, writers--seeking their response on issues of ownership and copyright of an artist's works.
What usually happens is that little of ownerships or copyrights is discussed, but more likely Patrick and his interviewees connect on a different plane entirely. One senses that with each interview something inside the artist interviewed is touched, and something inside Patrick sparks on a level he hasn't experienced in a while. Both people gain immeasurably by the snatched time spent together.
Interwoven like the threads of a fine fabric, Patrick's personal story meshes with the stories he tells of the people he met on this journey. He manages to deal graciously with his family's mental health history, his own bipolar disorder, and the familial dysfunction and estrangement he experienced with his parents.
Patrick's writing style is moving, soothing, and rich in tone. His characters are real people, ones he met face-to-face to write this book. And he gives us the best of each of them. Once an interviewee's story had been told I felt as if I knew him or her. Places visited are shown in highly descriptive language, like the Boise Valley appearing as a small village you might find in a train set. Or the restaurants, bars, and taverns and their eclectic menus across this land of ours.
Ending his journey in Portland, Oregon, also ends Patrick's personal journey with the realization of what he wants from life. But what he wants will cost him dearly. He'll have to walk away from his lucrative lobbyist position. Furthermore, he worries he might suffer a bipolar downward spiral that could impact his wife and children, even destroying the family he loves. Patrick's need to face down his fears about his family's history of mental illness also plague him.
What Patrick Ross has given us is bi-fold: a lovely bird's-eye view of his cross-country travels and a raw and often painful view of his own fears, growth, and potential loss.
If you enjoy reading memoirs, stories of people in other places, or a dual story line created by bringing the two together in one book, I highly recommend you read Committed: A Memoir of the Artist's Road. I could not stop reading passages aloud to my husband as the writing begged reading aloud. And I did not want to see that I had turned the last page.
I rarely rate books on this blog. And when I'm forced to rate as on Amazon, Goodreads, or other book sites, I rarely give a 5-star review. The book must be exceptional to garner five stars.
Today I'm pleased to give Patrick's book, Committed: A Memoir of The Artist's Road, a stellar work, a 5-star rating.
DISCLAIMER: I received an advanced copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed are solely my own.
Award-winning creative writer Patrick Ross is the author of Committed: A Memoir of the Artist’s Road (October 2014). He has been a professional writer for more than 25 years, and has chronicled the challenges and rewards of living an art-committed life on The Artist’s Road since the fall of 2010. For more information, visit his website.
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(Image and bio via Patrick Ross)
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Available: October 16, 2014
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