A memoir of the haunting and redemptive events of theacclaimed writer’s life—the betrayal of a con-man father; a murder-suicide inhis family’s house; the presence of an oystercatcher—each one, as the sayinggoes, stranger than fiction
As with many of us, the life of novelist HowardNorman has had its share of incidents of “arresting strangeness.” Yet few of usconnect these moments, as Norman has done in this spellbinding memoir, to showhow life tangles with the psyche to become art. Norman’s story begins with aportrait, both harrowing and hilarious, of a Midwest boyhood summer working ina bookmobile, in the shadow of a grifter father and under the erotic tutelageof his brother’s girlfriend. His life story continues in places as far-flung asthe Arctic, where he spends part of a decade as a translator of Inuit tales—includingthe story of a soapstone carver turned into a goose whose migration-time lamentis, “I hate to leave this beautiful place”—and in his beloved Point Reyes,California, as a student of birds. In the Arctic, he receives news over theradio that “John Lennon was murdered tonight in the city of New York in theUSA.” And years later, in Washington, DC, another act of deeply felt violenceoccurs in the form of a murder-suicide when Norman and his wife loan their hometo a poet and her young son. Norman’s story is also stitched together withmoments of uncanny solace. Of life in his Vermont farmhouse Norman writes, “EverythingI love most happens most every day.”
In the hands of Howard Norman, author of The BirdArtist and What Is Left the Daughter, life’s arresting strangenessis made into a profound, creative, and redemptive memoir.