This collection of autobiographical scenes is equal parts family history, travelogue and romance.
Eric Youngquist brings readers another assorted group of pieces on his family’s life and travels following 2006’s A Simpler Time. The book is divided neatly into two sections: Rita’s writings, assembled by Eric after her death, fill the first and his follow. Rita’s letters, diary entries and photographs suggest a privileged youth and recount her life before Eric. The material offers a unique snapshot of growing up in a bygone era, while passages detailing the couple’s courtship are sweetly nostalgic testaments to the strength of their 45 years together. Readers, however, might find it difficult to push through the non-narrative structure of Rita’s writing, especially overly thorough biographical sketches of her ancestors. The second part of the book is much more accessible, charting the couple’s course through Wisconsin, Norway and upstate New York over several years. Eric came from an immigrant family and was indoctrinated with that most American of ideals–through education one can better their social standing. He was a diligent scholar and his natural drive fueled an ascent in academia and the foreign service, which dictated the family’s travels. Eric’s sentimentality and attention to detail are the bedrock of this book, and they shine through on every page: paternal meditation on his two young sons, fond memories of his oral foreign service exam or fashion observations from the streets of Oslo. His writing is unfailingly sweet-natured and conscientious, but his penchant for all-inclusive details will tire some readers and lose others altogether. While his love for Rita is nothing short of awe-inspiring, this overwhelming devotion often impairs his narrative judgment; he seems blind to the obvious tedium that some of Rita’s missives provoke. But readers who are doubtful that true love exists or that one dedicated man can make a difference will be winningly persuaded by Think Kind Thoughts.
Charming but somewhat wearying chronicle of a life well lived.