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Kirkus Reviews, 1 Dec 2005

A graceful memoir of a Midwestern life, with frequent leaps to stories about the author's granddaughter and mother, now suffering from Alzheimer's in a nursing home. Memoirist and essayist Sanders (English/Indiana Univ.; The Force of Spirit, 2000, etc.) has crafted here a fairly traditional but nonetheless emotional narrative of his own coming-of-age.  With an initial grudging nod to "“that notorious trickster, memory," the author tells about his Tennessee childhood, his Ohio boyhood and adolescence, his collegiate years at Brown, his graduate studies at Cambridge and the beginning of his teaching career in Indiana.  We learn about the struggles of his alcoholic father and the frustrations of his mother.  We learn about books the author read, his sexual awakening, his astonishing love affair with his wife, Ruth.  They met at a summer high-school science camp, wrote passionately to each other for five years (their correspondence comprised thousands of letters), then married shortly before sailing to England.  In Cambridge, he became active in the anti-Vietnam War movement; he writes affectingly about the murders of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy.  He writes well, too, about suffering and disappointment and despair.  His young wife had a lumpectomy in London (benign) and suffered a miscarriage the night before he had to defend his dissertation.  His anti-war and other leftist sentiments threatened to estrange him from his family.  Sanders writes candidly about how Christianity bore him along for a while, then left him.  But at its core this is a love story.  Sanders responds with awe to the forces of nature (his text begins and ends with a thunderstorm), and he believes that love is how humans connect to them.  Permeating all is the author's love for the natural world, and, even more intimately, for his parents, his wife, his children, his granddaughter.  An eloquent exploration of life and love by a writer with a most inquiring mind and capacious heart.


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