UNDER THE BIRCH TREE by Nancy  Chadwick


A Memoir of Discovering Connections and Finding Home
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A debut memoir about a woman’s three-decade search for connection and self-assurance.

Born in 1962, Chadwick grew up in suburban Chicago with her parents, brother, and half sister. She went to Catholic school and describes her house as “idyllic,” fondly recalling a birch tree in the yard; she often found solace in its shade. Her mother’s perfectionism made her anxious, though, as did her father's frequent absences for business. When her brother removed a family of rabbits from under her tree, Chadwick writes, she began to sense a growing instability in her world. When she was in middle school, her parents divorced, and she moved to a town house with her mother. She found the new location very disruptive, she says, because “my physical, material world defined my foundation.” She entered journalism school keen to learn advertising but socially insecure; she wanted a boyfriend but was unable to connect to the young men she met. During this time, she renewed her faith in God, the only relationship “that never caused anxiety, frustration, or loneliness.” Upon graduation, Chadwick found work in advertising with a number of firms from which she was either fired or laid off, further damaging her self-confidence. Eventually, she landed a job with a bank and moved to San Francisco, where she met her future husband. Together, they returned to Chicago and found their home. Chadwick brings numerous anecdotes to life with vivid dialogue and details of settings and characters. She recalls exactly what she wore on a date in the 1980s, for example, as well as the flow of each conversation she had over the years. In her acknowledgments, Chadwick says she revised her autobiography until she had a memoir that was “complete with experiences of reflections and takeaways.” Unfortunately, although the book touches on promising themes—including the effects of divorce and the need for home—she doesn’t explore them in great detail. Instead, readers are left with a long series of events, unsure where to invest their energy or empathy.

A remembrance with lively individual scenes that fail to merge into a cohesive whole.

Pub Date: June 19th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-63152-357-1
Page count: 248pp
Publisher: She Writes Press
Program: Kirkus Indie
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