Top positive review
A tender, honest, captivating memoir
on May 10, 2000
Reaching into her family's history, narrating how her mother and father came to move to Pierce, ID, Kim Barnes begins a most tender, generous, and honest memoir. In part, it's a story about Clearwater County, Idaho in the late 1950's and on into the 1960's. It is as if the world of beat poetry, the space program, and campus unrest hardly existed. In the wilderness near Pierce, Idaho, life still has a settlement feel.
I can attest to the accuracy of Barnes' portrayal. My mother taught school in nearby Weippe, Idaho in the early 1950's and her family still lives in Clearwater County seat, Orofino. We used to take drives up to Weippe, Pierce, and Headquarters and these towns seemed both barely settled and unsettled. It didn't seem anyone was going to stay long.
For me, the most compelling dimension of Barnes' memoir was her family's Pentecostal Christian worship and practice. Told with probing compassion, Barnes lyrically describes how the cartography of her mind as a girl was drawn by the fundamentalism and moral restrictions of Pentecostalism.
As this exploration deepened, and as Barnes describes her family moving to Lewiston, ID and herself becoming a teenager, my respect for Barnes blossomed. Given Barnes' rebellion against Pentecostalism, she easily could have demeaned her parents' Pentecostal practice. But, she does just the opposite. Yes, she chronicles her confusion, the tug-of-war in her soul as she rejects, accepts, and rejects again the comforts and constraints of this kind of church, but she also explores her respect for her parents, how much she is indebted to them for her openness to the transcendent (especially in nature), to the mysterious in life. For not turning her memoir into a reactionary bashing of Christian fundamentalism and for candidly exploring how she could leave home, but home never left her, I deeply admire Kim Barnes. For the beauty of her language, I praise her. I could not put this book down. Nor could I stop reading this book's sequel, Hungry for the World, which I've also reveiwed.