The haunting account of how the author tried to escape her rural Indiana past.
Ink + Lead Literary Services owner Palm (Please Do Not Remove: A Collection Celebrating Vermont Literature and Libraries, 2014) grew up in a community claimed from the waters of the Kankakee River, which had been rerouted to create farmland. Early on she realized that she was not like other blue-collar “rural folk” whose lives entwined with the land; rather, she was a “bookish fishergirl who longed for the social opportunities of a cookie-cutter subdivision.” Unable to move past the narrow confines of her social and physical isolation, Palm first sought refuge in religion. She experimented with both Christian and non-Christian faiths and belief systems; eventually, meditation became her one reliable way “out of that riverbed.” While the author embraced the power of her mind and imagination to rise above an existence measured by cycles of flood and drought, fellow outsider—and secret object of desire—Corey sank into the “rot” of riverine life by “rejecting school and authority” and becoming a convicted murderer. Deeply troubled by Corey’s descent into criminality but determined to break free of the muddy quicksand of river life, Palm, whose own uncle had been imprisoned for attempted murder, went to college and studied criminal justice. Her path took her first to Indianapolis and then, after marriage, to Vermont. Yet despite the distance she put between her riverbed upbringing and the trauma of Corey’s lifetime incarceration, both remained with her. Only after she was able to return to Indiana to visit Corey in prison could she make peace with her past and a heart that, according to her corresponding palm line, looked like “an aerial cartography of the river where we grew up.” Densely symbolic, unsentimental, and eloquent, Palm’s book explores the connections between yearning, desire, and homecoming with subtlety and lucidity. The result is a narrative that maps the complex relationships that exist between individual identity and place.
An intelligent, evocative, and richly textured memoir.