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And Then I Am Gone: A Walk with Thoreau Kindle Edition
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Freese moves from the fast-paced way of being in New York to the quiet solitude of Alabama. His days consist of reflections, advice, and general pondering about not only his life, but society in general.
While I enjoyed his elegant writing style and agreed with people as a whole, and our abilities to triumph or fall, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of a disconnect with this story. I think if I were a little older and at a different point in my life, I would have related to the author and his experiences more. Instead, I felt like I was listening to my father talk about a good or bad day, or what ailment was bothering him and how he was coping at the particular moment. While not quite on the same page as the author, I respected Freese’s experience and admired his accomplishments. It made me feel like I was listening to the advice of a relative or family friend for how to mold my future.
As much as I appreciated those factors of the story, I missed some of the more transcendental factors sprinkled throughout the book. I read these pages as guidelines and the dos and donts of life rather than reflection and clarity that comes from tranquility and nature. I think if this memoir had ore of those elements added into the pages, I probably could’ve meditated more throughout the course of the story.
Still, if you need a pick me up or insights from someone who has been there and is telling of his experience for not only his own benefit, but also to bestow his knowledge to others, this is a deep yet quick read that does leave you walking away feeling full of new knowledge and motivation to tackle the road ahead of you.
Fortunately , he finds a worthy partner and a peaceful homesite to help him deal with property issues , health problems, finances, and most of all finding new purpose in life.
His "no holds barred " style of writing and his devotion to mining nuggets of truth ,makes for an authentic read.
The memoir is not without humor , as this N.Y. ex- urbanite settles into an Alabama lifestyle.
And Then I Am Gone is not all harmony. Though Freese has moved south and gone rural after a life of the city, he is not completely isolated; he must deal with neighbors and others, so full of quirks, and occasionally avarice, they cannot be but of interest. Using straight forward language to build sentences as crisp as spring water beneath a country sky, Mr. Freese brings us into a world where a neighbor with the somehow wonderfully apt moniker, Wendell, will try to take advantage of a gift of cheap firewood from felled trees. Where the man hired to take the trees down will grab for more while working harder for Wendell than Freese. And where the writer eventually straps on a metaphorical pistol and moves the bad seeds off his land. This is some cowboy stuff that keeps the pages turning and the reader grounded in reality. I am thankful our guide did not decide to only include warm strolls in the wood and sweet winter nights by the fire. After all, where is the yin without the yang, the calm without the storm. Where is the lesson if we are already settled and whole and left alone.
With this memoir we have a work deep in existential angst. The past is searched and a mother's depression nearly brought tears to my eyes. All we experience forms us. What we are is the whole of the molecules storming our world. Freese knows this intuitively though at times it stymies him as it must all thinkers. He does not want easy answers or perhaps answers at all. I think what he is after is catharsis. His dialogues with Thoreau are free associations, words in the air like wine in the blood, a little something to sharpen the focus until it falls blurred again. May the world bless Freeses' lady Nina. She is the rock he needs. At one point late in the book there are medical problems mounting for both Matt and Nina and he says, succinctly, all I can do is go on. There are no full answers given here. At any rate only a fool would try that game and Mathias Freese is no fool. He has given us much to savor, much to contemplate. It is a work of brevity that sits large in the hand, the mind. All we can do is go on. Blessedly the questions are glorious.
I've been to Thoreau's Walden Pond, so I welcomed the author's choice to walk with him and talk to him. Mathias B. Freese does not go gently in the night. He is candid about his own faults as well as his own strengths. He shares not only his difficulties moving geographically in the USA from an urban setting in his beloved New York City to a rural home in Alabama, but also his sadness over his broken relationship with his daughter. The latter is balanced by his loving words about Nina, the new partner in his life.
His writing is at times uplifting, at times depressing, but that's what life is. The loss of health, family ties and place are not easy subjects, but Mathias B. Freese does it with grace and honesty. And woven in all of that is a nice dose of Thoreau.
This is the third book of the author's that I've read. His work is always a pleasure to read as there is so much to digest.
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