Sign Here If You Exist and Other Essays

Jill Sisson Quinn. Mad Creek, $19.95 trade paper (184p) ISBN 978-0-8142-5592-6
Quinn’s uneven second essay collection (after Deranged: Finding a Sense in the Landscape and in the Lifespan) uses forays into the environment of the Great Lakes to illuminate and ground larger questions, such as the existence of an afterlife or the nature of motherhood. Throughout the book’s nine selections, Quinn has a propensity for making connections between personal and scientific topics. Sometimes this technique is effective, as when she describes the complex life cycle of a single insect species, the ichneumon wasp, to address the theory of evolution, and its ramifications for the Christianity of her upbringing. It’s more intriguing still when she reflects on the protracted process she and her husband went through to adopt a child in terms of the question of whether all humans have an innate urge to have children (she opines that the truly “innate biological drive is the creating, not the offspring. It’s sex we want, not children.”) Other linkages feel contrived, such as when she compares rigid geological categories to how platonic same-sex relationships have been categorized, and often miscategorized as sexual, by various people over time, or connects feelings of homesickness to a theorized human yearning for the savanna landscapes of the earliest humans. Fans of Annie Dillard will appreciate some of the insights found here, but there are enough flaws to prevent Quinn’s intermittently intriguing offering from standing out in its genre. (Aug.)
Reviewed on : 05/21/2020
Release date: 08/01/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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