STARRED Book Review: Halfway From Home
Reviewed by Joe Walters
Lovely lyrical essays on life in a world collapsing
There are so many ways to make a life. They may all be dependent on the singularity of a situation–the people, the nature, the reverberations of the immediate and larger world you were born into–but these don’t separate you from the human experience; they connect you. We carve through memory to better understand where we’re going in Halfway from Home by Sarah Fawn Montgomery, an intimate poetic excavation of the search for meaning in a life on a planet that’s burning.
Sarah Fawn Montgomery grew up in a literal one stoplight town in California, where her family extended like growing limbs by both birth and adoption. Stories of her family weave their way through this essay collection and give us a fractured view of what it means to live in a home cut into pieces by rooms inside of rooms to make space for them all. Montgomery speaks of her blended family lovingly, yet honestly, especially concerning their struggles in navigating addiction, violence, and the pieces of their past that shaped them before they arrived in this shared home.
These seventeen essays cover a wide range of topics, but many explore the nuances of finding sturdy ground in a world intent on collapse—from the warming of our planet to a global pandemic to her own personal world. There’s much to learn in here amidst the personal stories, making the essay-collection form as informative as it is soothing in its storytelling. Now, these aren’t feel-good stories (save for a few, like “Something from Nothing”), but they do infuse cyclical fulfilling stories amidst cultural critiques and muses on the truth, beauty, and destruction of nature.
The essays in full form feel whole and tell stories worth listening to, but it’s the lyrical deftness with which Montgomery operates that makes each line of the collection such a fulfilling experience. You won’t want to miss a single line. It can occasionally feel like a lot to handle, with nearly each paragraph ending with a wide-eyed metaphor to swallow, but in truth, I’d rather spend too much time with beautiful language than none or not enough.
The author may be at her best when discussing and describing the earth’s natural elements. Perhaps it’s my own desire to spend time with trees and butterflies and soil in this world that seems like it’s breaking, but her command of language and deep well of knowledge about the nature of various areas leaves a constant impression that Montgomery not only knows her stuff but cares about it deeply.
This collection has so much to offer. If you’re in the mood for something poetic, true, and natural, Halfway from Home is a can’t miss collection. Nostalgia, memory, nature, family, and more are explored with such fervor and care that it’ll work as a straight read-through or as a nightstand in-between read next to your big weighty novels like a poetry collection would. It ends just about as strongly as you could ask for too, with some deeply intimate and small stories that hit you right in the feels as you close the final pages and say goodnight.
Publisher: Split/Lip Press
Genre: Nonfiction / Essays / Family / Nature & Environment
Print Length: 194 pages
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