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December 11, 2019

Other Dives into Other Lives

Dance Me To the End, by Alison Acheson

Alison Acheson’s memoir is all about narrative, narratives the defy the laws of narrative, or at least the commonly supposed one. After twenty-five years of marriage (and raising three sons), she discovers that she’s fallen in love with her spouse again, that they have reached that pivotal moment so many couples arrive at after years of living separately and taking the other granted—and then they decide to go on into the future together. But then the future would not stretch long, because not long afterwards, her husband is diagnosed with ALS. The decline is fast and brutal—he lives just ten months after that, and she has resolved that she will care for him at home until the end, but she didn’t really know what she is promising at the time. Told in fragments, some poems, Dance Me to the End is a memoir about marriage, aging, family illness, caregiving, and how to understand one’s own story, especially when it seems like you know the ending already (but, of course, you never do).

What the Oceans Remember, by Sonja Boon

So, before I read Sonja Boon’s memoir, I didn’t actually know where Suriname was. Beside Guyana, okay, but then I thought Guyana was somewhere in Africa, perhaps, but no. Geography is difficult—for some of us more than others, it seems—which is an underlying point to this book, with Boon attempting to understand her own personal geography and history, to connect the islands of her ancestry and experience. The memoir beginning in Newfoundland, where Boon now makes her home and raises her family, but she’d been born in the UK to parents who were Dutch and Surinamese, growing up with brown skin on the Canadian prairies, the product of Dutch colonialism, the Slave trade, with ancestors who’d come from India and Africa as indentured labourers and slave workers themselves. This memoir is an exploration of memory, archival documents, and the limits of both. It’s also about music, race, lineage, inheritance, and family, and I loved it. A truly extraordinary, entrancing work.

My Father, Fortune-Tellers & Me, by Eufemia Fantetti

A memoir that begins, “My father likes to say he was lucky that God held both his hands and stopped him from killing my mother.” Who wouldn’t be intrigued and want to read on? Fantetti is a fantastic writer (I loved her short story collection A Recipe for Disaster, way back when…), and structures her memoir with the use of Tarot cards to tell a story of her Italian parents’ arranged marriage, her mother’s mental illness, which contributes to Fantetti’s own traumatic childhood, and her complicated relationship with her beloved father, who has struggles of his own. Dark and funny, vulnerable, honest and full of love, this memoir is rich and entertaining.

Into the Planet, by Jill Heinerth

I honestly thought I kind of knew about cave diving. Because I love swimming, see, and I loved the blue of the cover, the sense of adventure. However, nope, it turns out that cave diving is nothing like I’d ever imagined, and even reading about it made my heart race, the risks, the chances. But Heinerth writes about how it’s the risk and the chance that drives her, about using her fear instead of letting it rule her, about being a woman in a male-dominated occupation, and about the endless depths of her passion for exploration, for discovery, to find parts of the world that no one else has ever seen.

Falling for Myself, by Dorothy Ellen Palmer

Book Cover Falling for Myself

I’ve learned a lot from Dorothy Ellen Palmer over the years, about activism, and ableism, and how to write a novel with a twist. In her memoir, Falling for Myself, she puts the different pieces of identity together—adoptee, disabled, teacher, activist, parent, senior citizen, author— to tell the story of her life from A-Z, and she’s holding nothing back, fed up with being silent too long in a world that expects her (everyone) to conform to its impossible expectations. Palmer is fierce, and she is furious, justifiably so, but she is also witty, generous, a born storyteller, and she has created a fascinating and most compelling book.

Check out my previous round up of memoirs here!

2 thoughts on “Other Dives into Other Lives”

  1. In some ways I envy that you can read so many books in a year. I’m so glad I read this post because it reminded me of Small Game Hunting (etc). That book was on my “to read” list early on and then I promptly forgot about it. Okay, it’s back on and I will definitely read it.

    But then you went and intrigued the heck out of me with Crow. Slow reader that I am, and a full year ahead of book club selections to be read, I may have to make a choice between the two.

    So glad I stopped in when I did — Happy New Year, Happy Writing.

    1. Kerry says:

      Thank you! Crow is definitely worth checking out. Happy New Year to you.

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