cover image Without Saints: Essays

Without Saints: Essays

Christopher Locke. Black Lawrence, $21.95 trade paper (100p) ISBN 978-1-62557-04

Poet Locke (Music for Ghosts) delivers a muscular tale of finding hope in this affecting memoir. Raised in rural 1970s New Hampshire by strict Pentecostal parents, Locke internalized a fear that demons were omnipresent and that his stutter was proof of his demonic possession. His parents would eventually separate, leaving Locke’s mother to raise four children alone on a meager salary and Locke to find support and rebellion in drugs, alcohol, and music. His casual drug use would continue even as he started a family and pursued a career teaching collegiate writing. It was only after his daughter was violently attacked by a friend’s dog that he reconsidered his life choices: “I looked at the few remaining pills I had hidden in my sock drawer and felt disgusted.... The only thing Sophie needed right now was a father and to feel safe and I chose instead to run directly into the flames.” But his long-sought communion would arrive in a seemingly unlikely place—a creative writing workshop he taught to a group of incarcerated men “bound together by something closer to love.” While much territory is covered in Locke’s candid writing, his fragmented recollections often beg for a longer look. Even still, this is a deeply humanist story of community and the salvation found in it. (Oct.)