Mary J. Oliver’s style of writing is reminiscent of W.G. Sebold. The absence of Oliver’s father is made very present in the relationships that she found along her journey. It shows the therapeutic possibilities of tracing the uncertainty of memories which allow for the rewriting (righting) of the relationship with the absent parent.
Dr Salma Siddique, clinical anthropologist and psychotherapist
Mary J. Oliver’s decision to write a ‘narrative poem’ rather than a conventional family history is crucial to the book’s success. Spare and concise, with many voices speaking in different genres, the personal story steadily expands with historical significance.
While there are echoes in the title of Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London, the bleak days of the Great Depression in western Canada and the rise of Fascism in Europe are also powerfully evoked.
I like the way documents – letters, photos, etc – are reproduced raw. I don’t know if they are all authentic or if in fact the book is mostly fiction, and it does not matter.
I wish Sinclair Ross could have lived to read this story. It would have impressed him a lot in his life-long dedication to more spare forms of writing.
David Stouck, Prof of English Literature, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver