A debut memoir focuses on a rural childhood and adventurous self-discovery.
“The seventies in that small rural Indiana community had a feel about them that the world has completely lost,” Reed writes in the early chapters of his book. He recounts growing up in a mining town where he could often “smell the change of summer.” In his memories, a young girl saves him from horrible bullying. He and his best friend eat and scuffle their way through the backwoods—in a chapter appropriately titled “Creeks, Crawdads, and Chaw.” The most impactful memory, however, is of an early spring calf. Shortly after his grandfather committed suicide, Reed found himself with too much responsibility on the farm, leading to a tragic and unforgettable incident with a newborn calf that revealed to him hard truths about life. Reed then jumps forward in time to examine himself as an adult and the physically demanding exploits he has undertaken, such as climbing the Exum Ridge route in Wyoming to get “a better look, both at the world and even more so at myself.” The author concludes his memoir with short stream-of-consciousness writings, almost prose poems, related to thoughts and topics such as “Monday Off,” “From the Heart,” and “Wilderness.” It is in condensed isolated moments like these that Reed truly shines. In many scenes, he shows off a flair for crafting poetic imagery without losing sight of his down-home inspirations. At one point, he writes: “The September sun seemed to be blazing a hole right through the brilliant-blue Indiana sky,” perfectly setting the stage for the sun-drenched story that follows. Reed also excels at crafting suspense, making his wilderness escapades compulsively readable and genuinely thrilling. The trouble with his book stems from its brevity and a lack of connection between these outstanding moments. There are too many sudden jumps through time and too many characters, like his grandfather, that deserve more attention—resulting in a series of brief but well-written episodes that never quite cohere.
An account that rushes too quickly from one memory to the next without allowing a scene’s potential to develop fully.