When Barton Swaim read a column by his state’s governor, he promptly sat down and wrote him, “I know how to write, and you need a writer.” He got the job, but his writing skills went to waste as the governor insisted on a “voice” that bore only a slight resemblance to proper English.
Taking your boat out on open water any time soon? Already there? You’ll want to weather life’s inevitable storms by keeping your anchor and flares aboard at all times. If an emergency strikes, you will need something to hold you steady, and lights can summon help. In this tender follow-up to her 2007 bestseller, Here If You Need Me, Kate Braestrup weathers her own storms—the sudden death of a spouse and the inevitable departure of a child growing up—and calls upon her work as chaplain for the Maine Game Warden Service to help in her most personal ministry, her family.
Tracy Slater thought she’d stay in Boston forever. A writing teacher with a Ph.D. in literature, Slater worked with diverse students, practiced yoga, published essays and enjoyed her close-knit community of friends. Yet one fateful summer, she agreed to teach English in Japan. “Don’t fall in love,” said her mother. Naturally, she did.
Ah, alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems (to misquote “The Simpsons”). In Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, Sarah Hepola reveals the ugly side of addiction with humor and honesty. She writes gracefully of blackouts, junk food binges and unnerving sexual encounters. Along the way, she touches on loneliness and cats and hangovers and alternative weeklies. Although she claims that alcohol made her fearless, her true bravery emerges in this memoir’s witty candor.
Anyone who has completed a grueling round of sun salutations may be glad to learn that such exertions were intended for adolescent boys. Yoga, as it was taught to Americans by Indra Devi in the 1950s, was a slower series of postures, yet it was no more “authentic” than the intense hatha yoga of today. As Michelle Goldberg capably illustrates in The Goddess Pose: The Audacious Life of Indra Devi, the Woman Who Helped Bring Yoga to the West, yoga has always been a bizarre blend of Eastern and Western tradition, particularly in the U.S. Like many other trends, yoga’s popularity began in Hollywood.
Bob Morris may have disappointed, infuriated and befuddled his parents along the way, but he loves them enough to keep trying to get it right. In Bobby Wonderful: An Imperfect Son Buries His Parents, a memoir that offers few sentimental excuses while laying bare his big, if often misguided, heart, Morris does an unforgettable job of trying to redeem himself. He even manages to share the humor in it all.
Given the endless parade of biographies of Founding Fathers and Tudor monarchs, one might be forgiven for wondering whether there are any fresh candidates for a lengthy life study left. Canadian writer Rosemary Sullivan (Villa Air-Bel) proves the answer is yes with Stalin’s Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva, the masterfully told and meticulously researched story of a truly remarkable life.
Joseph Luzzi’s new memoir, In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love, transforms unthinkable tragedy into literary gold. In November 2007, while Luzzi was teaching at Bard College, his beloved pregnant wife Katherine was in a car accident: She died later that morning at the hospital, shortly after their daughter Isabel was born. In the space of a single morning, Joseph Luzzi became both a father and widower.
Blonde, svelte, former Miss America, musical prodigy, successful news anchor on national network with a hot husband: I was, quite honestly, prepared to hate (or at least strongly resent) Gretchen Carlson. But darn it if she didn’t charm me from the first page of Getting Real, her memoir of growing up wholesome in Minnesota.
Many of us think of North Korea as a nation of automatons, blindly following Dear Leader over the cliff. If nothing else, Joseph Kim’s memoir of his harrowing childhood during the famine that devastated North Korea in the 1990s will complicate that view.