August2017 Booklist 15 www.booklistonline.com
Your library probably doesn’t have most of
these obscurities, but your patrons probably
include plenty of delightful weirdos who will
remember them. —Daniel Kraus
Poetry Will Save Your Life.
By Jill Bialosky.
Aug. 2017. Atria, $24 (9781451693201); e-book, $11.99
All facets of poet, novelist, memoirist, and
editor Bialosky’s literary pursuits coalesce in
this graceful and inspiriting entwinement of
memories, poetry, and interpretation. Bialosky substantiates her assertion that poetry
is lifesaving with superbly selected poems
incisively linked to her experiences and
beautifully elucidated. As she recounts her
suburban Cleveland childhood shadowed
by her father’s early death and her mother’s
depression, Bialosky revisits common first
poems, including Robert Frost’s “The Road
Not Taken,” and remembers being at once
“enchanted and puzzled” by poetry, apt responses at any age. The shock of a field trip
that traversed a poor city neighborhood
is paired with Langston Hughes’ “You and
Your Whole Race.” Sexual awakening and
bouts with loneliness are matched with
boldly searing lyrics by Sylvia Plath and
Sharon Olds. Bialosky’s dramatic account of
sorrows, struggles, and discoveries told with
candor and humor propels readers forward,
while poems by Louise Bogan, Gwendolyn
Brooks, Li-Young Lee, W. S. Merwin, Adrienne Rich, Wallace Stevens, and many more
instigate contemplation. With brief poet
biographies, this is a resplendent and invaluable anthology and an involving, richly
illuminating narrative. —Donna Seaman
YA: Bialosky’s succinct, poem-pegged,
becoming-a-writer memoir and clarifying
responses to poems will fascinate literature-loving YAs. DS.
Some Bright Morning, I’ll Fly Away.
By Alice Anderson.
Aug. 2017. 224p. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (9781250094964).
Anderson is a survivor. When she’s gravely
injured in a motorcycle accident, she remakes
herself into a fashion model. When she’s sexually abused by her father, she expresses her
pain in poetry. And when she’s physically and
emotionally abused by her husband, a respected doctor, she fights back.
In this courageous memoir,
Anderson’s life in Missis-
sippi is turned upside down
by Hurricane Katrina. Al-
though her house is one of
the few that remain stand-
ing, her marriage is finally
over. Her husband (who suf-
fers from OCD and alcoholism) has become
increasingly demanding, and her struggle to
keep peace and protect her three children ends
in a devastating beating. She files for divorce
and custody of the children and then settles in
for a long battle. Anderson is brutally honest
in her depiction of the abuse she hid for years
behind her proper southern-wife facade and
upfront about the obstacles she faces in the
courts as she tries to prove that her husband is
dangerous. She also expresses her yearning to
reclaim herself through her work. Anderson is
a gifted writer who vividly describes both set-
tings and emotions. Her powerful story gives
voice and hope to women caught in similarly
terrible conditions. —Candace Smith
By Eliza Factor.
Sept. 2017. 240p. Parallax, paper, $18.95
(9781941529720); e-book, $12.99 (9781941529737).
Factor (The Mercury Fountain, 2012) recounts the story of raising her son, Felix, who
has both autism and significant physical disabilities. Though nonverbal,
Felix’s personality was sweet
and affectionate until he
began having periodic fits
of violence against himself.
Though prescription drugs
at times alleviated this, Factor wanted more for Felix.
Extreme Kids and Crew
was born out of Factor’s vision of a relaxing sensory gym for those with disabilities
and their families, where they would not be
judged. Through her efforts, Factor created a
place for Felix and others to be accepted and
integrated into a larger community. Though
Felix’s situation eventually necessitated his
living at a residential school that could meet
his needs 24/7, his unique and continuing
imprint on every area of Factor’s life and on
Extreme Kids is evident in this book. A wonderfully uplifting book about Felix’s resilience
and the love and community that Factor and
her family have created and experienced, this
is a must-read for anyone touched by or raising a child with disabilities as well as those
in the medical field. In a conversational, well-phrased style, Factor relays a positive outlook
and hopefulness at every setback that are truly
inspirational. —Stacy Shaw
The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf,
T. S. Eliot, D. H. Lawrence, E. M. Forster,
and the Year That Changed Literature.
By Bill Goldstein.
Aug. 2017. 368p. illus. Holt, $30 (9780805094022). 823.
Four radical writers battled illness, depression, domestic stress, heartbreak, and artistic
paralysis as the year 1922 delivered two literary explosions: James Joyce’s Ulysses and the
first English translation of the first volume of
Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. These novels
would serve as goads and polestars for T. S.
Eliot, E. M. Forster, D. H. Lawrence, and
Virginia Woolf. In an extensively researched,
extraordinarily fine-grained and lucid literary
history rich in biographical discoveries, Goldstein traces the synergy among this quartet and
reveals both their anguish and esprit de corps.
He extracts wisdom, wit, cattiness, and sym-
The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder: The
pathy from diaries and letters as he charts the
fitful creation of “The Waste Land,” A Passage
to India, Kangaroo, and Mrs. Dalloway concur-
rent with Eliot’s breakdowns and rest cures,
Forster’s unrequited love for men, Lawrence’s
fractious sojourn in Taos with Mabel Dodge
Sterne, and Woolf’s defiance of doctor’s or-
ders. Here, too, are publishing skirmishes and
censorship cases. Goldstein’s ardently detailed,
many-faceted story of a pivotal literary year il-
luminates all that these tormented visionaries
had to overcome to “make the modern hap-
pen.” —Donna Seaman
Frontier Landscapes That Inspired the
Little House Books.
By Marta McDowell.
Sept. 2017. 390p. illus. Timber, $27.95
Laura Ingalls Wilder’s famous Little House
books are notable for their richly realized settings. And it is those settings—the natural
world that informs the Little House books—
that provide the subject of McDowell’s own
book. The author visits each of the places that
inspired the eight books, giving the reader not
only biographical material but also a careful
examination of the fauna and, especially, the
flora of each location. In the second part of
her book, she offers suggestions for a tour of
the Wilder “gardens” and tips for growing a
Wilder garden, including a multipage inventory of plants that Wilder knew and grew.
The book is pleasantly written, with the occasional nice turn of phrase: acorns, with their
concentrated energy, are “a sort of Red Bull
for tree sprouts.” It is also lavishly illustrated
with photographs, drawings, maps, and, notably, a selection of Helen Sewell’s and Garth
Williams’ illustrations from the Little House
books. Though not for every reader, the book
is a feast of opportunity for dedicated Wilder
fans and enthusiastic gardeners everywhere.
The Wrong Way to Save Your Life.
By Megan Stielstra.
Aug. 2017. 304p. HarperPerennial, paper, $15.99
(9780062429209); e-book (9780062429216). 814.
There may be a wrong way to save your life,
but there is no wrong way to appreciate this
book. As a memoir? Yes: ambivalent preg-
nancy tests in Italian youth hostels, wistful
star-gazing on a Michigan
lake. As a treatise on twenty-
first-century feminism? Of
course: contemplating privi-
lege as a white woman wary
of criticism and irrelevance.
As a probing series of essays
on fear, motherhood, career,
and relationships? Without
a doubt. Stielstra brings all her selves to the
table and in doing so provides a crystalline ha-
ven of acceptance and safety to anyone—wife,
mother, educator, lover, writer—who is both
present in every moment and wondering how
she arrived at any particular juncture in time.
Stielstra has both questions and answers. Is