From Publishers Weekly
After nearly 30 years away, Rember, a Harvard-educated English professor at Idaho's Albertson College and holder of various odd jobs, returns to his backwoods roots in Stanley, Idaho. The hardscrabble wilderness of his youth has seen major changes: pushed to the brink of environmental disaster from nuclear waste runoff and overbuilding, it has been reclaimed by well-meaning preservationists and returned to something that resembles home, only "what once was familiar was unfamiliar. What once was real was no longer real." Native fish have long disappeared, replaced by farmed fish; wild game replaced by protected "wildlife." Yet, sunsets are still magical and the old fences and ruined cabins still have stories to tell. As Rember relives his youth, his focus moves away from the ways his surroundings have changed to the ways he has changed. As he revisits his home grounds-looking at the antlers his trapper/fishing guide father collected; finding an old photo of his grandma, who lived "on the ragged far edge of consensus reality"; remembering the elks he shot and gutted-he relives the turning points, the revelations, the small epiphanies "for which all subsequent living is merely repetition and elaboration." He used to think life was about "free will," but now, feeling the tug of his own history, he can settle for "free fall." Rember writes sentences so elegantly crafted they seem effortless, tells stories so well turned readers will want to read them aloud. Beneath the writing, it's Rember's voyage to self-consciousness that gives his story power and meaning.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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*Starred Review* This engaging memoir does for central Idaho's Sawtooth Valley what Bill Kittredge did for southeastern Oregon and Ivan Doig did for central Montana: it brings to life the rugged recent past and squares it with the present in its troubling complexity. From hydroelectric dams and nuclear testing to vacation subdivisions and government fish kills, the 1950s and 1960s left deep human footprints on the mountainous Sawtooth area, until even the salmon retreated from the Salmon River. After creating the Sawtooth National Recreation Area in 1974, the feds began erasing those footprints, buying up subdivided parcels and trucking in salmon past the dams. But the attempt to recapture the "early homesteader" era resulted only in a theme park of sorts, teeming with artificial wildlife and residents who mostly reside elsewhere. Still, writes Rember, who summers on the 40-acre spread his parents used to own, "There are worse lives than those lived in museums." As he recounts his transition from hunter and ski patroller to college English teacher, Rember makes a compelling case that, like radioactive isotopes, "What we can hope for is to glow brightly in the moment of our decay." Frank SennettCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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