Knopp (Creative Nonfiction/Goucher College) knows home in all its complexity, manifestations, and vicissitudes, and it’s found for her in southeastern Nebraska.
Twenty-two essays on aspects of home, companionable but distinct, linked by formal and personal lexicographic explorations, make up Knopp’s thoughts on “what is home, how one might find it . . . how the presence or absence of home affects the way one feels, thinks, and acts, both as an individual and a member of a community, society, or nation.” Home for Knopp is geographical, emotional, cultural, and portable (which doesn’t preclude homesickness but rather encourages it). And for her it arouses a protectiveness—for the tall-grass prairie of her home has been nothing if not tinkered with, from sod busters to river channelers, exploiting the land instead of shepherding it, losing balance, getting a surfeit of carp and along with it a dearth of sturgeon—an example of “the justice to extending the right to life and habitat to all creatures, with exceptions made on for dangerous bacteria or viruses.” But Knopp doesn’t often hedge her bets; she is devoted to the foxtail barley of the endangered salt marsh, to cold and lightning, meteors and wind, finding and creating a home in their midst. Humans, too, figure in her place, from the sense of “homewell,” where “you feel rooted, nurtured, aligned, synchronized, whole, plugged in, and flowing” (there are moments of such overwriting: “The collected essays seem to reveal a scheme, design, method, plan”), to the sense of deep community, tending to each other’s needs, growth, and expression. There are also instances of confusion—she’ll speak assuredly of “headmemory” (bound by image and language) and “body memory” (bound by sensation), then 30 pages later write that “even people who know better have a hard time letting go of the body-mind dichotomy.” Evidently, she should have known better.
An abiding devotion to a place and its inhabitants: sentimental in the right way, mnemonic, tempting.