Nadelson (Aftermath: Stories, 2011, etc.) takes a break from fiction to deliver this bit of personal history.
The author grew up in New Jersey, but the first half of his memoir takes place in Oregon, where he moved after college. There he met his ex-fiancee, the woman who acted as impetus for the book. She left Nadelson a month before their planned wedding, and the breakup and its lonely aftermath form the backbone of his musings. After spending the bulk of the book chronicling those years, Nadelson turns to memories of his high school years and one summer as an adolescent at camp. During these chapters, he occasionally refers back to the dark period he experienced after his breakup, but he doesn’t connect the segments in any major way. The lessons learned from his younger self are, when defined, eloquent and universal. About his uncle’s suicide he writes, “What I glimpsed in Uncle Mitch’s death, I can see now, was the well of potential suffering we all live with but rarely acknowledge.” These moments hint at the wisdom acquired with time and self-examination, but they are unfortunately matched and even overshadowed by the opposite: times when the author sounds like he’s still an angry teenager. Describing parents of his fellow campers, he writes, “These parents were the tacky rich, desperate to prove how high they’d climbed, and their children were spoiled and snobbish, nothing to envy.” Nadelson may be right about this, but coming from the point of view of his older and hopefully wiser self, it just sounds bitter and judgmental. The series of vignettes he sketches are well-illustrated, but they lack focus and direction; many of them have little or nothing to do with the relationship disaster that seems to have sparked the writer’s life analysis.
Mostly for fans of Nadelson’s fiction.