This powerful collection (11 essays from Ophans, plus new and uncollected work) highlights D’Ambrosio’s ability to mine his personal history for painful truths about the frailty of family and the strange quest to understand oneself, and in turn, be understood. In his strongest essays, including an account of a trip to a Russian orphanage, a reminiscence of hopping freight trains, and wrenching family stories, he avoids pathos and uses telling detail to get at some larger truths. In an essay on J.D. Salinger’s short stories, D’Ambrosio (also known for his fiction) writes about the suicide of his youngest brother. In a Russian orphanage, he talks with children who will have a hard road ahead, and conveys that he, too, is making his way in a world full of holes, gaps, and scars. In his graceful essay on poet Richard Hugo’s “Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg,” he observes that in a life that’s been broken “we know these things happen, and we don’t… know why.” Without an easy solution, he observes that “answers are as foolish and transient as we are” and challenges writers and readers to “approach the unanswerable,” which he himself does here, to great effect. Agent: Mary Evans, Mary Evans Inc. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 06/30/2014 Release date: 11/01/2014 Genre: Nonfiction
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