cover image I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place

I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place

Howard Norman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26 (208p) ISBN 978-0-547-38542-6

In this luminous memoir, novelist Norman (The Bird Artist) recalls moments of “arresting strangeness,” even in the midst of his quest to gain clarity and stay balanced emotionally. Norman writes of five places where he lived and the characters he met in each, providing him with an opportunity to reflect on his life. With a twinge of melancholy and a steely resolve not to let himself be moved or hurt, Norman regales us with his tale of lust, death (he inadvertently kills a swan on a local lake), and disappointment that mark his teenage summer of 1964 in Grand Rapids, Mich.: “I was in a phase of moving away from people... and when the duck and swans... migrated south in their formations, I remember feeling bereft.” Norman moves from one place to the next, often simply wishing to look at birds and write about them. He also recalls events that marked changes in his life: his work in an Inuit village where he first heard the phrase used in the book’s title; a murder-suicide in his house in D.C. and its impact on his family; and his encounter with an owl and a kingfisher in Vermont. Norman is currently content to let the world come to his Vermont doorstep, but he may not have given up travelling quite yet. (July)