SOLACE: Rituals of Loss and Desire
NPR contributor Sojourner writes about her life from a "scrap-and-wallboard" cabin with no running water near Flagstaff, Ariz. She shepherds readers from her difficult girlhood with a mentally ill mother through the birth of her children and her discovery of feminism to a mature adulthood pocked with unhealthy relationships to men, alcohol, her computer and slot machines. Along the way, Sojourner, originally from Pennsylvania, finds a love for the American Southwest, moves there, then chafes at all the other newcomers who she believes are ruining the landscape and the environment. The result is a book that addresses the author's addictions, environmental activism and progression of messy relationships. Alas, Sojourner does not fully develop any of these threads. Moreover, rather than illustrating her life with stories, Sojourner reports, without meaty narrative backup (e.g., she glosses over the collapse of her first marriage: "I had sleepwalked and jangled my way through the earlier marriage to the college poet and, in an act more merciful then [sic] I understood, left him and our baby. I had fled to a new man, and when he left, run straight into the second marriage"). The book vacillates between periods of despair and epiphanies that soon evaporate (e.g., as Sojourner is trying to quit spending so much time on the Internet and return to writing, she notes, "Words spilled from the pool of witness and recollection. And as they emptied out, I felt full. For a while"). Still, Sojourner's passion, prickly vulnerability and deep humanity are engaging when taken in small, essay-sized bites. (Mar.)
Forecast: Sojourner's NPR fans may pick this up, along with the author's forthcoming (in March) collection of short stories, Delicate (Scribner, $13 paper 272p ISBN 0-7432-2970-3).
Release date: 03/01/2004