This is How We Leave
We all run from something, but do we have to leave?
Against a background of family runaways, award-winning memoirist Joanne Nelson explores what it takes to stay when the going begins to dazzle and the staying seems way too ordinary. With a great grandfather who disappears, a grandfather who strays, and a father who walks away, she's lived a life liable to give way at any time. In unflinching prose that is by turns intimate and humorous, she dives deep into her own role (and even culpability) in a childhood marked by disruption, emotional abuse, and parental alcoholism.
Nelson's working-class roots and catholic school girl upbringing, experimentation with all things negative, and hopeful creation of a new family life all serve a passionate story that examines the many ways we leave our communities, our families, and even ourselves. It will surprise no one that she became a psychotherapist--working with families, children, and in schools to help others on a similar journey. Her innovative observations and careful attention to detail create an engaging narrative of just how quickly our pasts become the now--and just what we're going to do about it!
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About the Author
"A wise and generous memoir, keenly observed, unflinchingly recorded, written with humor, empathy, and love. Nelson's coming of age--as a daughter, sister, wife and mother herself--feels worthy and true." Dinah Lenney, author of Coffee
"This is How We Leave is full of sweet and somber recollections of a family that is both happy and unhappy in its own way--as all families are. Nelson is a master of structural ingenuity, of suspense mitigated by calm meditation. Full of quiet, delectable detail--the heightened sounds and smells of bittersweet recollection--This is How We Leave is a book of conflicting emotions, of ambivalence and nostalgia, and a reminder that we come to know those we love the most by hearing and telling stories about them." J.C. Hallman, author of B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal
"Joanne Nelson welcomes us into her life like a good friend with coffee and crumb cake. This Is How We Leave offers wrenchingly human stories--about love and loss, abuse and abandonment, betrayal and redemption, traffic tickets and holiday rituals. Something in this writer's voice--a warmth, a wonder--won't let us turn away. Nelson is a keen observer: of her grandfather chewing tobacco at the kitchen table, of her own young comforts (feet "warm and dry in my own bread-lined galoshes"). Nelson's life is filled with both necessary and chosen solitude--yet again and again she shows us the depth and meaning of human connection. This book abounds with honesty. Nelson is not afraid to eat a sandwich at her mother's deathbed; she is not afraid to tell us how she feels about it, then and after. The gift of these stories lies both in their integrity and in the irrefutable call to live a life of courage." Lisa C. Krueger, author of Run Away to the Yard