on September 26, 2002
This is an unusual book. John Elder has written a book that blends the rhythms of life with the rhythms of nature.
Using Robert Frost's poem "Directive" as a springboard, Elder guides the reader through a series of year-long hikes that provide a rare glimpse into the writer soul, family and surroundings. His musings transport the reader from the glaciers that shaped his the plateau for the Village of Bristol, VT., the farmers who struggled and more often than not, failed to scratch a living from the rocky soil that surrounds his adopted home.
He carries us from broken china to Abenaki settlements, meditating on family relationships and deeper relationships with the land.
This is a beautiful example of nature writing, a work that draws a balance between the machinations of civilization and the beauties of wilderness. By inviting the reader to follow the last line of Frost's "Directive," to "Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.", Elder creates a sense of hope that Vermont's balance between nature and culture can speak to the rest of the nation.
on October 30, 1998
I have read many of the reviews of Reading the Mountains of Home--both before and after I studied the book itself--in various magazines and newspapers, and, while many of them summarize accurately and manage to convey fairly clearly its complex and compelling structures, the musical grace of the sentences, the unique of John Elder's vision about the interlinking of language and place and time and family, of Robert Frost's "Directive" and of the concept of wilderness in America. There is a sense also in which he has taken nature writing--a broad genre forever in evolution--and brought it to new heights through this creative interweaving.
But what I notice most is the book's quiet heroism. By this I mean simply that the author exhibits the courage to put all of his deepest convictions, his most strongly held beliefs, the raw stuff of his very life in a place for all to see. One does not see this very often in books. We need more writers like John Elder. We need people like John Elder, people who have the courage to write from the deepest parts of themselves for the greater good of all of us and the larger home we call earth. If there were six stars I would give it six stars.