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The Distancers: An American Memoir (Vintage Original) Paperback – August 13, 2013


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The Distancers: An American Memoir (Vintage Original) + Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild + Storm Kings: The Untold History of America's First Tornado Chasers
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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage Original
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (August 13, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 034580676X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345806765
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The author reaches back into the past to tell the story of his family: stoic midwestern German immigrants. Beginning with his great-great-great-grandparents in 1850, he records a uniquely American, multigenerational odyssey. Though seemingly ordinary and straightforward, the family journey takes some surprising and often poignant twists and turns along the way. Recalling his idyllic childhood summers in Edwardsville, Illinois, Sandlin is inspired to use the lives of his two great-aunts and two great-uncles as the starting point to illuminate the history of seven generations of his clan. As in every family, there are eccentricities as well as extreme moments of darkness and light, and he discovers that the ties that bind across the years are stronger than he expected. This charming memoir serves as a reminder of the significance of understanding and respecting your roots. --Margaret Flanagan

Review

Praise for Storm Kings:

"The awe and terror that American weather inspired in early settlers is one of the most compelling motifs of Lee Sandlin's compulsively readable Storm Kings. . . . [A] cautionary tale about the frequently unpredictable role that weather continues to play in our lives."--Christian Science Monitor 
 
"Using his skills as a brilliant storyteller, Lee Sandlin places the reader in the middle of a storm, where he becomes an eyewitness to the helplessness, fear, destruction, and psychological aftermath of tornados."--New York Journal of Books

Praise for Wicked River:

"Sandlin has reclaimed a precious piece of our history." --American Scholar

"In this lush, exuberant, action-packed and history-drenched book, Sandlin has brought the river back home again. . . . A vivid torrent of facts and passions, in an inspired agitation of water and words. . . . Wicked River is the best kind of history book."--Chicago Tribune

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 57 customer reviews
I enjoyed this book and it was difficult to put it down once I started reading.
Shirley Brady
This is a history of Lee Sandlin's family, beginning with a description of the family farm house in southern Illinois that his great grandparents built.
D. Williams
Reading about Clarence and Mary is one of the most uplifting love stories but alas, times were also hard for the family.
Carol Toscano

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Neal Reynolds VINE VOICE on September 6, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Here we have a beautifully positive account of growing up in America. It has the spirit of classic family memoirs such as A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN and MAMA'S BANK ACCOUNT (which was filmed as I REMEMBER MAMA). There's sadness here. There's happiness and joy here. And throughout there's the spirit of family here. It's a relaxing and sometimes poetic portrait and one you will not forget once you've read it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By feemeister VINE VOICE on June 29, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book was wonderful! I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

This is a book about generations of a family. It is a real slice of American history. I loved reading about the people through the different generations and getting a feel for what kinds of things people went through.

The people were great to get to know. Some of them were funny, some you felt really bad for, and some you wanted to kick the snot out of. Some actually got the snot kicked out of them! There was one beautiful love story (Clarence and Mary) but they were few and far between. It was really interesting to read the points of view of different people through the last almost 150 years.

It's nice to get family history down in writing like that; more families should do it (maybe I'll try)!

There were several things in there that were just beautifully heartwarming, and almost all of them had to do with Eugene's plants. Marty's care of them, the remembrance by the railroad track and the rescue and resurrection of the bulbs at the end, were all just really poignant.

There were some really sad things. That precious Baby Oliver (how adorable he was), the accident that Clarence and Mary had (I was just IRATE with that truck driver), and just the hard lives that many of them had.

I enjoyed this book immensely, and will probably reread it several times. It really DOES make you wonder what went on in your own families!

And I guess Helen took her secret ''man'' to her grave. Drat!

Many thanks to the author for sharing this beautiful history. You did them proud!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By V. Travis on November 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
Sandlin's family history is not like mine or that of my ancestors but maybe more of a parallel story. I was drawn to his story of characters, their flaws and faults ever so real, and their redeeming traits remembered and cherished. All families have stories and I am impressed that he was able to revive so much if his family history, yet make it seem less like historical reading and more like a novel, alive with the struggles, emotions, disappointments, and love of family members for generations back. The writing and the story captivated me and I recognized things that I have heard told about my family history, whose participants experienced wars, poverty, big families, hard work, values being passed from one generation to another, and most if all, love. Bravo, Mr. Sandlin, for taking the time and effort to write this. I enjoyed it very much!,
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ryan C. Holiday VINE VOICE on September 2, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I would read Lee Sandlin's taxes if he ever published them. That's how good of a storyteller and writer he is. How many people's relatively normal and not at all historically significant personal family history would work as a published book? Mine wouldn't. Yours probably wouldn't. But The Distancers, which is essentially the story of the last 4 generations of Sandlin's family in Edwardsville, IL, is a fascinating and engrossing read. The proof of that is that at the beginning you don't care about these people but at the end, you do. It gets better every page you read. HUGE kudos to Sandlin for making this book work and for doing it in a non self-indulgent way.

That all being said, I much more strongly recommend his other books, starting with Wicked River. Storm Kings is also great. And of course, his essay, "Losing the War" might be the greatest thing ever written about the Second World War.

Let's hope that Sandlin keeps writing and gives us another sweeping historical epic soon.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By bas bleu TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 6, 2013
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
From beginning to end this story is enthralling. It hits at the heart of the average American family the good, the bad, the triumphs, the sad, the tragic, the spirit, the drive, and the determination to proceed and win through over coming odds and obstacles.
My absolute favorite part of this descriptive memoir is the author telling of later generations of kiddo's that spent summers at the old family home.
Sandlin shows us the best of America in Grandma and Grandpa's old farm house, the lazy summer days spent at Grandma's place in a very small town, or country. Seemingly nothing to do but listen to the bees buzz, lay under a big ole' tree and make cloud pictures, fireflies at night, fishing, picnics, swimming, picking wild flowers, catching frogs, 4th of July, etc. All those precious memories that belong only to childhood if you were lucky enough to have owned even one summer of such bliss you will never forget it. We grandchildren didn't know anything about WWII, or the dirty thirties with no jobs, soup lines, owning one dress or one pair of shoes. So to us those halcyon days seemed like some place magical and wonderful, if you had a family house to spend even part of summer even once as a child I will lay odds that you can still recall almost every scent and sound and taste , even remember the games you played with your cousins and aunts, uncles or what ever family members surrounded you, I know those days for me stood absolutely still. Time went on forever and ever and every moment was supercharged with some kind of poignancy and the family house was almost surreal, exisiting somewhere between reality and a magic place. Lee Sandlin brought all those best memories back and they are memories that I love to have brought back.
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