“Some books celebrate the human condition; others commiserate with us. This memoir does both.” —Helen Oyeyemi, NPR
This spellbinding memoir by the National Book Award–nominated author of The Bird Artist begins with a portrait, both harrowing and hilarious, of a midwestern boy’s summer working in a bookmobile, under the shadow of his grifter father and the erotic tutelage of his brother’s girlfriend. Howard Norman’s life story continues in places as far-flung as the Arctic, where he spends part of a decade as a translator of Inuit tales—including the story of a soapstone carver turned into a goose whose migration-time lament is “I hate to leave this beautiful place”—and in his beloved Point Reyes, California, as a student of birds.
Years later, Norman and his wife lend their Washington, DC, home to a poet and her young son, and a subsequent murder-suicide in the house has a profound effect on them. In this “unexpectedly arresting” memoir, life’s unpredictable strangeness is fashioned into a creative and redemptive story (The New York Times Book Review).
“Norman uses the tight focus of geography to describe five unsettling periods of his life, each separated by time and subtle shifts in his narrative voice. . . . The originality of his telling here is as surprising as ever.” —The Washington Post
“These stories almost seem like tall tales themselves, but Norman renders them with a journalistic attention to detail. Amidst these bizarre experiences, he finds solace through the places he’s lived and their quirky inhabitants, human and avian.” —The New Yorker