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A middle-age rite-of-passage memoir by a writing teacher and published poet.

A father of one with a second on the way, Console (Creative Writing/Kansas City Art Institute; The Odicy, 2011, etc.) seems still to be struggling with the issues he faced as an undergraduate, when he had “the sense of living for alcohol.” He has been sober for more than a decade, though it took him longer to give up marijuana. He misses both but mainly the second. “Maybe I quit using drugs for nothing, I think,” he writes. “It’s not like I have ever lost anything important because of my habits. I am not a real addict in that sense, not unless I am in some kind of denial.” This travel journal details a journey to his wife’s home country of Romania, where neither her marriage (her second) nor their daughter has received official sanction. Before departing, they learned that the fetus she was carrying could have Down syndrome. By the time they returned, a later-term abortion was illegal, though Console was daunted by the idea of raising a child with such special needs. At least that’s what he thought at the outset, when he was determined to refer to it as a “fetus” rather than a baby (and later a baby with a name). As he pondered the morality of his decision (as well as returning to eating meat after years as a vegetarian), he worried mostly about his failure to achieve his potential to write something of significance. “Yet I postpone the decision to begin,” he writes. “I must begin, I must begin to begin.” By the end of this slim volume, its paragraphs jumping back and forth in time and often having only tenuous connections to each other, Console has faced some tough decisions, attained a maturity he was lacking at the start, and has written something.

A large step for the writer that reads like a smaller accomplishment.

Pub Date: March 21st, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-86547-830-5
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2017


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