"A dazzling first book of personal essays . . . each one so sensitively (and sensuously) rooted in actual existence that I continually had to remind myself that I was reading about someone's life, not living it myself. Writing rarely gets this emotionally real."
—Robert Atwan, series editor, The Best American Essays
"The prose is very clean, crisp as ironed linen, even simple in spots—but I will tell you this: I cried all the way through it, and almost nothing I read makes me cry."
"Very few memoirs achieve the raw beauty, the searing honesty, and the transcendent shimmer of McClanahan's rememberings."
"The Riddle Song is a solid example of what writing-one's-life at its best is all about. . . . Out of the makings of her life, McClanahan weaves a quilt that beckons us with its warmth. Best of all, she does this without striking a false, much less sentimental, note."
"McClanahan's deliberate regard for craft . . . opens the door to an important use of memoir as a genre."
“The book doesn’t claim that this life is more interesting than anyone else’s, as so many collections of personal essays seem to do, but rather uses the events it tells as raw material out of which the author builds a discourse of more universally human, and more universally pressing, issues of family and self.”
—American Book Review
"McClanahan sweeps you along with a barrage of detail and lovely prose. She has the knack of summoning emotion through facts and presentation. . . . McClanahan is excellent company, whether at a hospital bedside, over a glass of wine, or walking between rows of graves."
—Robert Boucheron, New Orleans Review
In this ensemble of beautifully personal, interrelated essays, writer and poet Rebecca McClanahan explores the familiar rituals, the shared dreams, and the guarded secrets that bind a family together. Besides navigating her own emotional landscape, McClanahan revisits the physical places of her childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. She takes us to the military bases where her father and husband were stationed, to the cemeteries she loved as both child and adult, and to the various hospitals and homes that served as backdrops for family stories.
Without sentimentality, she considers the meaning of losses—the loss of a child, a marriage, a family home, and a lost chance at motherhood—while celebrating the restorative power of time and close personal connections. In her search to discover what it means to be an individual within the context of kinship and ancestral bonds, McClanahan creates a moving meditation on family, memory, and the nature of home.
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