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Shepherd: A Memoir Paperback – May 1, 2014
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From the Author
I am honored that Shepherd: A Memoir was named a 2015 Ohioana Book Award Finalist in Nonfiction.
Top customer reviews
I love rivers. This memoir made me feel like I was traversing the river of a man's life. I visualize his parents, especially his father, as one shore, and his children as the other. The grown Richard is tough on the dreamy boy-man. And aren't we all self-critical and self-punishing? The desire to set right old family scripts and in the doing sometimes nearly repeat them is a theme that many readers of a certain age can relate to in their own lives as we each negotiate the shoals of nostalgia, regret, and reconciliation.
The book's details are awfully nice, and the writing tender and clear. I especially enjoyed Richard's wry observations about the Gilbert family's neighbors at Mossy Dell and his finely drawn comparisons between the "stable, affluent world" they enjoyed at the comfortable home they left in Indiana, and the raw-boned reality of trying to make an agrarian dream come true in Ohio's hardscrabble Appalachian region.
Some folks will read Shepherd because they are interested in their own agrarian dream. I found it to be "bigger" -- applicable to anyone's concept of a self-created Eden, which, as Richard notes in his prologue, "could be so very complicated." I look back at businesses my husband and I created, sweated over, and were barely able to sell; at a waterfront cottage we bought hoping the "knockerdowner" on it could be salvaged (it couldn't); even our unsuccessful efforts to "achieve" fertility after I was past forty.
Read Shepherd. Afterwards, take a walk and think about how our different dreams and unique experiences, our struggles and hopes, are so much alike. Then give yourself and all the other dreamers a break, maybe a kind word.
But at the center all of it is Gilbert's extraordinary voice as a writer. There is no persona here; this book is the story about a real person who authentically immerses himself completely and intimately into everything--the weather, vegetation, his beloved sheep, and the lives of the people in a poor Appalachian community.
At one level, there is the haunting redemption of a distant father's paradise lost weaving through the background. There is the lifetime naturalist, who knows the identity and history of all the vegetation he encounters, the seasoned newspaper reporter for whom it is second nature to bag someone's story in a heartbeat, and a genuine curiosity about everything and everybody he encounters.
Most of all is the courage of his honesty. If not for the sheer pleasure of its artistry, read this book to find out what honesty is, because you can't sit down and make that up: you either have it or you don't, and Richard Gilbert possesses that rarest of gifts.