A meditation on loss by Pierson (The Perfect Vehicle, 1997, etc.), who mourns the changes that have forever altered both her hometown and the city she came to adopt as home.
The author is deeply disturbed by what “progress” is doing to the landscape of America. The Akron, Ohio, of Pierson’s childhood, the details of which are still vivid in her mind, is no longer there. Neither is rundown 1980s Hoboken, where she lived while in her 20s. The author remembers it as an area with character, collecting Manhattan’s overflow of hopeful and creative young people. A victim of developers’ zeal, Hoboken is now “Luxuryland, a subsidiary of Disney,” its condominiums filled with stockbrokers, its hippie bars replaced by martini bars. But the author’s particular bitterness is reserved for New York State’s destruction of small communities to create New York City’s water supply. Although the little Catskill communities that were submerged to create the Ashokan Reservoir were not part of her personal landscape, she regrets their demise and that of other rural areas that have succumbed over the years to the need for water. Pierson does not suggest solutions to the problems of population growth, suburban sprawl and gentrification; her book offers instead reminiscence, lamentation and an insistence that we recognize what we are losing when we lose it. The final section, “A Commonplace Book of Home,” collects quotes ranging from Eudora Welty and Clarence Darrow to Anton Chekhov and Chief Seattle to demonstrate that Pierson is not alone in her concern.
A keen eye and wry sense of humor are almost enough to brighten this bleak memoir-cum-plaint.