cover image It Runs in the Family: A Memoir

It Runs in the Family: A Memoir

Richard Manning. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-62030-1

Fans of Montana-based author and environmental writer Manning’s previous work exploring the physical and psychic terrain of the American frontier (Rewilding the West: Restoration in a Prairie Landscape) will enjoy this autobiography, which moves through various topics like a winding country road. Manning recounts his life on a Michigan farm, dwelling on his parents, whom he describes as “fundamentalist right-wing Christians of the same exact stripe that plays an appallingly significant role in American life.” While Manning retains his respect and admiration for farming life—a description of a job he held at age 14 at a slaughterhouse excellently shows how that business served “as an essential hub and infrastructure of a traditional farming community”—his main concern is his “emancipation” from his family and their religious restrictions, first through a scholarship to the University of Michigan and then through a succession of newspaper jobs that take him further and further into the West, all of which he details in a superbly precise manner. Manning eventually finds his father at the end of a long road as a missionary, “literally a homeless, babbling bum” in Panama. But throughout the book, he focuses on “what transpires between a father and son, what one generation gives to and gets from another.” Agent: Peter Matson, Sterling Lord. (July 9)