cover image NO HEROES: A Memoir of Coming Home

NO HEROES: A Memoir of Coming Home

Chris Offutt, . . Simon & Schuster, $24 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-684-86551-5

Following his 1993 memoir, The Same River Twice, readers and critics clamored for Offutt to recapture that success with a similar book. It's now been achieved. Offutt turns his impressive storytelling skills and unerring eye for detail on his journey back to the Kentucky hills, a seminal voyage in his 40th year to revisit his birthplace. He uses his considerable talents as a writer of short fiction to flesh out the colorful characters who populate the small community of Rowan County, recounting the quirky social and cultural rituals that distinguish it. "Never again will you have to fight people's attempts to make you feel ashamed of where you grew up. You are no longer from somewhere. Here is where you are. This is home. This dirt is yours," Offutt writes. Once he lands a teaching job at Morehead State University, which he graduated from 20 years earlier, his homesickness for big cities dissipates and he's no longer seen as an outsider. With his wife and children, Offutt struggles to move past tarnished childhood memories to forge a new life, savoring familiar places and faces while attempting to create a new identity as husband, father and mentor to his students. The book's high points are the painful yet eloquent recollections of his wife's parents—Holocaust survivors—who define the meaning of the words "heroes" and "home." Offutt's bold refusal to submit to nostalgic sentimentality, even as he admits defeat and forsakes his search for "home," and his skill as prose stylist set this book apart from the many homecoming memoirs. Agent, Brandt & Brandt. (Apr. 3)