A pensive perusal of the objects that can define and shape a life.
The materials that actress and essayist Lenney (Bigger than Life: A Murder, a Memoir, 2007) draws her inspiration from may be commonplace items, but to her, they “tell the stories of our lives.” The author reflects on integral items present throughout her history. Beloved is the Tiffany watch generously given as a wedding gift by her Grandpa Charlie, whose Steinway baby grand piano proved to be laborious to disassemble and relocate to her home in Los Angeles. Though uneven, the collection’s pieces build on each other, layer upon vivid layer of Lenney’s personal history, her heart firmly invested in hearth and home. The author’s family forms the centerpiece in a good portion of these ruminative writings, including a spontaneous, nostalgic revisit to her childhood home, an epistolary essay to her father, or a standout piece, “Nests,” which beautifully intertwines her sister’s dispirited emotional state with a family of watchful doves. Elsewhere, Lenney blissfully contemplates a spoon pilfered from summers spent at a resort, a scarf knitted during Hamlet rehearsals, a black dress that has escorted her through a temperamental acting career. One of the book’s most moving entries also happens to be its shortest: a strikingly gorgeous, two-page homage to Lenney’s daughter, portrayed as a young girl bouncing in the sun trailing a kite flush with bright streamers. Though she does tend to wander off on expository jaunts in less-engaging essays, the author remains a lyrical observer of everyday objects. Indeed, her truest passion lies in the heartfelt sentimentality for those things that “tether us to place and people and the past, to feeling and thought, to each other and ourselves, to some admittedly elusive understanding of the passage of time.”
An eclectic treasury of the cherished and the evocative.