A laconic, beautiful, and deeply insightful account about coping with loss.

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A memoir explores creativity, friendship, and lifelong trauma.

Browning (The Castoff Children, 2016, etc.) opens her book far from her New England home. She has traveled to Cimarron Valley, New Mexico. Her reasons are undisclosed but she finds herself transfixed by a female buffalo spotted near the roadside. Buffaloes are a symbol of sacrifice and the author ponders “ineffable things—of what it is to sacrifice all of one’s self, of grief, and gratitude.” Such links between the self and wild nature, between in-your-face reality and intangible truth, wind through Browning’s short work. She pans back to a year earlier and a lonely, painful miscarriage: twins. She didn’t tell her partner but “confessed” to her friend Mallory months later. The miscarriage was the “latest blow” in a life of physical, emotional, and psychological trauma. The author doesn’t dwell on details but says, “I had reached a point where I could no longer function.” She was diagnosed with Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and Mild Dissociative Disorder but inept therapy only deepened the condition. On Mallory’s advice, the two began a Christmastime road trip heading west, stopping in Taos, New Mexico, at the “honest” home of Mallory’s friends. Through nature, friendship, simplicity, and time, Browning felt “something was starting after years of things ending.” But she does not learn to let go of her suffering and trauma. Rather, she learns to carry it, own it. She loosely ties this idea with other writings on trauma and nature but her memoir as a whole is so uniquely personal, it reads almost as an offering. She tells her painful and revealing story, as many brave memoirists have done. But Browning gives much more. She chooses words with a poet’s economy and a naturalist’s eye for beauty. She includes her own black-and-white photography of the Cimarron buffaloes and the New Mexico and Colorado wilderness. Her stark, crisp landscapes fit the mood and theme of the book. And she deftly places her moving tale—her “small contribution”—within the vast panorama of this isolating digital age. The author believes the next frontier of creativity is not just telling bigger, more shocking stories but “humble baring,” a sacrifice of sorts, that brings people together despite and because of their brokenness.

A laconic, beautiful, and deeply insightful account about coping with loss.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-947003-90-3

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Little Bound Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2018


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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