NARROW RIVER, WIDE SKY by Jenny Forrester

NARROW RIVER, WIDE SKY

A Memoir
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KIRKUS REVIEW

The landscape and culture of west Colorado are vividly evoked in an accomplished literary debut.

“How do we settle with ghosts?” Forrester asks in her finely etched memoir, which begins when she and her brother try to decide on their mother’s burial site. “Where do we bury our mothers when there is nowhere we belong?” The author grew up poor: her family lived in a double-wide trailer after their father’s “all-time best construction business” failed; and then, after her parents divorced, in a single-wide trailer in the small town of Mancos. Narrow-minded churchgoers pitied her mother and the two children as a broken family. Forrester was bullied at school, where bored students “learned through textbooks, rote memorization, and discipline with strict rules, straight lines, the Pledge of Allegiance, moral certainty, no discussions, no show and tell.” Moral certainty was widespread in a town peopled by assorted religious fundamentalists and strident patriots. Mancos seemed like a place from which Forrester never would escape. In high school, she was promiscuous, ending up with Paul, as bigoted and controlling as her father had been. As a scholarship student at the University of Colorado, she faced “uncharted social terrain.” She struggled academically, felt alienated from the school’s sorority culture, gained unwanted weight, and discovered that she was pregnant. She had an abortion without anesthesia because she could not afford it. Much of the memoir focuses on Forrester’s mother, struggling to support her children, navigating her own uncharted terrain as she trained to become an ESL teacher, and finally showing her daughter the understanding and support that she desperately needed. Throughout, the author reflects on the culture that shaped and, in many ways, oppressed her: “an American flag waving from the bracket by the trailer door and ranchers and Mormons and Masons and a Christianity based in western pioneer mythology and guns under the bed.”

A modest, thoughtful memoir that traces hard-won liberation from the past.

Pub Date: May 16th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-9970683-5-1
Page count: 236pp
Publisher: Hawthorne Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2017




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