cover image Apple, Tree: Writers on Their Parents

Apple, Tree: Writers on Their Parents

Edited by Lise Funderburg. Univ. of Nebraska, $24.95 (232p) ISBN 978-1-4962-1209-2

The old adage, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” encouraged Funderburg, a University of Pennsylvania lecturer, to explore its truth in this sparkling anthology of essays on the contributors’ parents. Its selections all echo John Freeman’s declaration, “Love is in clarity, not sentiment.” Freeman, like Kyoko Mori and Avi Steinberg, find benefit in troublesome family legacies. Marc Mewshaw and Jane Hamilton look back on a parent’s writing career, and Bear Bergman credits his father’s knack for oral, rather than written, storytelling with shaping his own narrative abilities. Lauren Grodstein and Karen Grigsby Bates pay tribute to their mothers’ cooking, and Susan Ito and Dana Prescott do the same to the adventurous, extroverted lives of their fathers (both traveling salesmen.) Lolis Eric Elie reflects on the uncommon first name he shares with his father and son, and Ann Patchett muses on the close likeness she bears to her mother. These essays particularly excel with serving up memorable last lines, as in Patchett’s piece, in which the nurse overseeing her mother’s hospital care comments on how similar they look—“Like sisters?” Patchett asks, to which the nurse replies, “No, like the same person.” These essays, in addition to being resonant in their own right, will also move readers to recollect stories of their own parents. Agent: Geri Thoma, Writers House. (Sept.)