No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. ~ C.S. Lewis
When Nina Bingham lost her fifteen-year old daughter to suicide, she thought her own world would end. But what she learned about love and forgiveness changed her life forever. It will change yours, too.
… Raw and honest, she shares her painful past: an abusive alcoholic father, a failed marriage, the rejection she suffered after she came out as a lesbian, and her own brush with suicide. What could have been a story mired in self-pity and misery, ultimately is a story of hope. Nina’s compelling life journey shows how pain and loss can be transformed into strength and purpose. This book is not only for survivors but for anyone facing depression with suicidal tendencies. …
Once The Storm Is Over unapologetically rips apart the façade of coping to show the devastating aftermath of a child’s suicide and how a mother, flawed but courageous, learns to live again. Described as brave, insightful and inspiring, this book is sure to make its mark in the literature of suicide recovery, and be remembered for its profound and healing message.
Soon our email exchanges grew into talk of a guest post, perhaps an interview, whatever might help. Check here for my recent interview with Nina.
And then I opened the advance reader copy Nina had provided. I could not put it down.
From the beginning with her quote from Haruki Murakami, I knew this mother, woman, and counselor had a life story to share:
And once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.
The above synopsis more than adequately summarizes this memoir. I struggle finding words to explain more about what Nina Bingham brings to the page.
But what I know is she is a heartbroken mother ravaged by fear and questions over her daughter’s suicide. She can help others but can she help herself? Many families struggle with these same fears, questions, and doubts following such tragic loss.
Nina is not ashamed to write her truth, and she does so with raw anger, sorrow, grief, and at times a hopelessness that brought tears to my eyes. But her story is so well told there is no doubt it will help others.
I highly recommend visiting Once the Storm Is Over, the book site, between now and late February 2015 when the book launches to gain greater insight into the story and other reviews. Links to connect with Nina are below.
Nina’s memoir is a book you want to read if you have experienced the grief and hopelessness of suicidal loss, or if you have someone in your life who seems suicidal and/or depressed, or if you are a professional working with support groups for such people.
Nina’s story is unabashedly truthful and real. It is believable, and Nina herself is accessible for interviews, talks, and more.
The prairie landscape invites contemplation and reflection, quietly urging us to look within for universal truths. As Hickman points out: only an inner wisdom can help us connect a world of incessant surface activity with a deeper awareness. But no matter where you live, the ideas here will help you discover your place within–returning to it time and time again. We need frequent, meaningful reminders that we are much more than current events, sensational headlines, drama, controversy and conflict, and interminable, often distracting, news bulletins.
On a spiritual level, we are the open space of the prairies, the artistic stretch of silvery blues overhead–in many ways, we are even the curious dance of time.
Our spirits, our hearts, point to a timeless wisdom. Always Returning is an insightful and essential guide.
When D.A. Hickman published Where the Heart Resides: Timeless Wisdom of the American Prairie in 1999,she likely did not expect another edition or similar book.
However, as Hickman writes on Goodreads, much had happened when she returned to South Dakota and the prairie in 2008. This return to roots, to culture and lifestyle on the prairie, evidently sparked a hunger to not only revisit her own inner wisdom but to invite and carry her readers along with her.
With this 15th Anniversary Edition, a new title, and a new preface, I decided to join Hickman and never looked back after the first page.
My copy of Hickman’s Always Returning had just arrived when a trip to the ER with my husband was necessary. I hadn’t started the book then and snatched it up as we went out the door. As I waited to learn what was wrong with my dear husband, I began reading. I cannot explain the sense of peace and comfort that washed over me. The writing style is lyrical and provides a seemingly endless look at the prairie, a place no doubt representative to even us city girls when we think of a simpler life.
The view of the prairie is for any reader–city dweller, in the Dakotas, Georgia, New York, New England, or Colorado. Perhaps in a foreign land, military installations, senior or retired living facilities. Or maybe you still live at home with your folks. Perhaps you are among our country’s homeless or unemployed and someone has handed you a copy. Hickman’s book is for all of you.
Wisdom, however, isn’t a surficial phenomenon it must be discovered within–always on a deeper and deeper level. (Preface)
The writer makes it clear that your prairie is found deep within your being by means of becoming deeply aware of our surroundings and all that is ours to behold and experience.
The more pages I turned the more pages I wanted to explore. What I most enjoyed is Hickman’s contrasting of the slower nature of the prairie with our tumultuous culture of social media, get it done faster, be everywhere pace in the 21st century.
… [P]rairie wisdom is about learning to look, really look, at life in a way that spotlights the inconsequential, peers under and below the shiny, glittery surface of things, delves into the dusty corners and invisible crevices in an effort to understand the truth of the matter, indeed, the heart of the matter. (At page 15)
Not once does Hickman imply that the prairie is preferable over any other place; she simply points to its differences. And in so doing, she highlights the inner wisdom and beauty of finding our place and within it our wisdom.
In the chapter titled “Borrow It, Don’t Buy It,” Hickman brings us to a crucial need in all our lives–mutual respect within community. Today we are a have it all, have it now society. Buy, buy, buy is shouted from every media source in the land. Hickman suggests a refocusing on a new direction toward the time once again when “less is more.”
Either way, borrowing, because it seems convenient, friendly, and fun, or borrowing out of necessity, can keep our need for material possessions in perspective. Regardless of where you reside, of where you have come to know the wisdom of place, develop close friendships that allow for a healthy give-and-take. The mutual respect, the warm feelings of cooperation that develop, will ensure a happier tomorrow for us all. (At page 187)
As I turned the last page, I experienced a mix of emotions–well-being, sadness, hope, and yes, my own place of wisdom. Always Returning is a book I will always keep close by to return to again and again.
Always Returning is truly a book providing a map to the heart, a map GoogleMaps, Bing Maps, and Mapquest cannot offer. Hickman shows us where to plant our hearts and nurture them so their growth extends beyond us on to others. If there is hope for peace on this earth, that hope may just be found in prairie wisdom.
This is a book for the enjoyment of readers of all ages (young adult and up), of all faiths and spiritualities, of all lifestyles, of all cultures. I highly recommend it as a gift book whose recipient will be blessed over and over again.
I rarely rate books on this blog. And when I’m forced to give a star rating 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 D.A. Hickman’s book, Always Returning: The Wisdom of Place, a stellar work, a 5-star rating.
DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. The opinions expressed are solely my own.
Meet D.A. (Daisy) Hickman:
I’m an author, a poet, and the 2010 founder of SunnyRoomStudio, a sunny, creative space for kindred spirits. If you visit my online writing studio, you’ll discover intriguing posts from my Studio Guests and my author blog, as well. Just go to SunnyRoomStudio.com. I’m also a spiritual thinker who believes in the journey itself. When we explore new terrain with each life experience, the adventure is profound.
From the cover of Always Returning: “Insights we call wisdom must be learned repeatedly: each time, at a deeper, more profound, level.” Some book details … the 15th Anniversary Edition of “Heart Resides” (William Morrow) was published as ALWAYS RETURNING: The Wisdom of Place in 2014. The second edition includes a new preface and other relevant updates, but by and large, the material in this book is increasingly relevant. I greatly enjoyed writing Where the Heart Resides: Timeless Wisdom of the American Prairie. I have always been a student of society. There is so much to be learned by simply being aware of our surroundings, our lifestyles, and our assumptions.
The wisdom in my book originated on the American prairie, specifically when I stepped back to look at the place and its people at the turn of the century from a sociological and spiritual perspective. Indeed, an organic and lasting wisdom has evolved over the ages in a place known for hardship, but great beauty, as well.
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Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl delivers a treat as delicious as oatmeal cookies hot out of the oven – a memoir of a happy childhood. In charming and memorable vignettes, Carol Bodensteiner captures rural life in middle America, in the middle of the 20th Century. In these pages you can step back and relish a time simple but not easy, a time innocent yet challenging.
I have only to close my eyes and breathe in to remember the smell of a field of new-mown hay, flex my fingers to remember the feel of a calf sucking as it learned to drink, open my ears to the sound of my mother smoothing over a cooking mistake. Then I remember my dad sitting on the feedbox petting a yellow tomcat and I want to go sit by him again and talk about the work that has yet to be done. (Epilogue, Loc. 2921, Kindle version)
For some 33 years now, I have listened to my husband and his siblings reminisce over memories of their growing up on a cattle farm in the Yakima Valley of Washington state. I often wondered if their experiences were unique.
You see, I grew up a city girl in Nashville, TN, a far cry from Iowa or Washington. My memory banks hold no recollection of ever setting foot on a dairy farm during my childhood or even as an adult.
To date, I have taken my acquired family’s stories at face value, believing each farm would have its own unique set of stories with no semblance to another farm family’s set of stories.
Carol Bodensteiner, in sharing her memories in this charming memoir, Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl, has proven me wrong. So wrong in fact I was guilty of running to my husband and suggesting he remember a certain story about calving or planting or haying and then reading aloud to him Carol’s story of similar experiences.
Carol’s gift of storytelling is rich, distinct, and nourished with truth. Each vignette she shares draws the reader in to experience it with Carol, her sisters, and their folks. Whether it is a family or farm story, a story drawn from community at school or church, or a story of certain relatives or friends, a tapestry of a simpler life on the farm when time moved more slowly and memories were more easily cherished is woven thread-by-thread until you feel transported to the Bodensteiner farm.
This isn’t to say that growing up on the farm was always easy for the Bodensteiner girls. Carol shares easily the difficult times as well as the good. She does not shy away from letting her reader know that life was not always smooth, losses were hard, and the weather could change the success of a crop or the success of a cow giving birth to a healthy calf.
Carol ended her epilogue with the quote shared above, but I have another favorite that speaks clearly to the writer’s ability to draw in her reader. It is found in the prologue:
This land of my childhood releases sweet, long forgotten memories and brings me back home. Home to the farm. Home to my family. Home. (Prologue, p. 3, Kindle version)
What reader would not want to turn the page to explore this farm, meet this family, and discover home?
Fans of memoir, farms and farming, simpler times, and stronger community will fall in love with Carol Bodensteiner’s Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl. Each chapter or vignette can stand alone, and I think they would be lovely read aloud to children teaching them of a disappearing lifestyle on which our country once depended upon.
Meet the Author:
I’m a writer inspired by the people, places and culture of the Midwest.
In my memoir, “Growing Up Country: Memories of an Iowa Farm Girl,” I share stories about growing up in the middle of the United States, in the middle of the 20th Century, a way of farm life that is rapidly disappearing from the American landscape.
“Go Away Home” – my World War One-era novel published in 2014, tells the story of a young woman who wants to make her own decisions and decide her own future at a time when rural women saw limited options. As she pursues her dream, she comes to realize that to get what you want, you often have to give up something else you want just as much. GO AWAY HOME is a SILVER MEDAL winner in the Historical Fiction – Personage category of the Readers’ Favorite International Award competition.
I am privileged to have my writing included in a number of anthologies.
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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.