Monday, October 20, 2008

Forget Me Not: A Memoir by Jennifer Lowe-Anker

Of all the memoirs published during 2008, Forget Me Not stands out for (at least) several reasons. First, the cover art, created by the author with "fat, brightly-colored paint sticks... generally used by ranchers to mark the hides of sheep and cattle," will call you away from the text at times -- for a second, third, or tenth look. An attention-grabbing foreword written by Jon Krakauer states that "Many of the things Alex [Lowe] did on steep rock and ice were so staggering and so far ahead of their time that they were terrifying to contemplate." But perhaps the most compelling reason Forget Me Not should move to the top of your book pile is Jennifer's skilled use of personal correspondence from her husband to entwine his international climbing career with her domestic pursuits of parenting and painting.

Although she shared international adventures with Alex for years, once their first child once born she "lost interest in activities such as ice climbing and skiing for the first time ever." After that, this story transitions into their struggles with leaving and staying and trying, with moderate success, to find ballast within the storms of conflicting passions. From the dusty cliffs of Pakistan to the blue ice of Antarctica, Alex writes love letters to his family describing his exotic escapades.

Those world-wide, public dramas, however, are punctuated by scores of contrasting passages that deliver Jennifer’s domestic adventures: “At home, Max beat on our pots and pans and we danced together in the living room. I took Max to ride the bus, and we went to ‘monitor’ swim classes, library hour, and the park. We hiked among spring wildflowers that sprouted in the greening hills of the Wasatch. We baked cookies, read stories, and were together always.” Although Jennifer accepted her husband’s drive (and job) to climb mountains, she was often afraid and overwhelmed by her family responsibilities. And then on October 5, 1999, the worst happened.

Even if you have no interest in the exploits of mountain climbers, this poignant story of Jennifer Lowe-Anker, her famous husband, and their children will draw you in and keep you emotionally connected with them far beyond the final page.

Read about Forget Me Not: A Memoir by Jennifer Lowe-Anker on

And don't forget to listen to The Write Question on Montana Public Radio Sunday mornings at (approximately) 11:10. This week's guest is Susanna Sonnenberg, author of a memoir titled, Her Last Death.

Chérie Newman

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Chérie's Fall Reading List

'Tis the season (no, not that one) for books. As the light and fair weather have faded off into the 6 P.M. sunset, I've barely noticed. It's hard to see over my stacks of books.

In mid-September, I started off with politics, just to get it over with, but actually enjoyed (and learned a lot from) Blue Man in a Red State, Greg Lemon's biography of Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer.

Then I prepared for reading nirvana. I made a huge pot of veggie soup, a pan of blueberry muffins, and a gynormous container of green salad so I could graze for several days while I devoured:

Horses That Buck (Margot Kahn)
Freeman Walker (David Allan Cates)
A Country Called Home (Kim Barnes)
Hundred in the Hands (Joseph M. Marshall III)
Her Last Death (Susanna Sonnenberg)
Jackalope Dreams (Mary Clearman Blew)

Next, two marvelous books of poetry launched my mind into a serious contemplation of my mind's contemplations:
the true keeps calm biding its story (Rusty Morrison)
Thistle (Melissa Kwasny)

I've had to pause for grocery runs and to spend some time at the radio station, but the stacks of fascinating books on my kitchen table (and bedroom table and living room table) flirt with me every time I walk through the room. So to hell with dog hair and spotty windows...

Next on the list:
Another Man's Moccasins (Craig Johnson)
Forget Me Not (Jennifer Lowe-Anker)
Trash Fish (Greg Keeler)
The Enders Hotel (Brandon R. Schrand)

There's nothing like reading to re-arrange reality. If you're dreading cold wind and snow, I recommend a bookstore or book festival outing. Stack up some books and read your way into oblivion.

And don't forget to listen to The Write Question on Montana Public Radio, or from our Web site, every Sunday at (approximately) 11:10. David Allan Cates is my guest this week.

- Chérie Newman