Reviews

Early Praise for: My Place in the Spiral

Many—perhaps all—of my favorite books are about humanity’s relationship time. The most obvious might even include actual machines for traveling through time, H.G. Wells’s Victorian nightmare isn’t just about future social consequences, it’s a chilling reminder of our own historical contingency in the present. An old standby like Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is not just a sentimental holiday tale about a sinner coming to repentance; the story stays with audiences because it finds a way—through past, present, and future—to get at all of the terror, wonder, grief, and joy that makes up a single life. David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas—and perhaps the broader novel he’s writing throughout his entire œuvre, invites readers to contemplate the way time shapes us, not just as individuals or communities, but as a species. Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse V gives the lie to structuring our lives around a beginning, middle, and end. Stephen King’s It is a thousand-page reminder of Faulkner’s old observation—in evil clown form—that the past isn’t dead, it’s not even the past. Chris Ware’s Building Stories forces us, through form, to witness time happening on several different ontological and institutional simultaneously: an apartment building is born, grows, ages, and perhaps even faces its own mortality as much as its inhabitants.

Rebecca Beardsall’s My Place in the Spiral is ostensibly about her search to find out something about her grandmother. And it is that, and that simple story is interesting enough in its own right. But it’s also about more far more than that. The book takes us through old photographs—some of people, but also houses, streets, and cemeteries. Through photographs and footnotes, the book asks us to suspend ourselves in multiple moments in the same moment, to see one body in multiple bodies (or is it multiple bodies in one body?) and, in doing so, to confront any number of quietly sublime truths about our complicated relationship to time. At various points, the book reminded me of Mitchell, Vonnegut, and Dickens; yet the book goes beyond those now dusty meditations on time to propose yet a new relationship to time. My Place in the Spiral uses family history to bend time back on itself so effortlessly that the reader is simultaneously always completely confident about where they are in the story, yet utterly unable to articulate where they are in the story. The story runs through your hand a bit like sunlight or cold river water or time itself: beautiful, important, impossible to capture or contain, let alone describe.

Readers will find themselves in My Place in the Spiral, I think, because we have all looked into a mirror and watched an unexpected ancestor peer back out. We’ve all looked at the ways our bodies are positioned and realized that we are drinking tea and reading a book in exactly the same way that our father did. We have all looked at our daughters and suddenly watched a long-lost grandmother spring to life. Time does not progress. It swirls. It eddies. It flows faster. Sometimes it stops, even doubles back on itself. Nathan R. Elliott, Ph.D online


Praise for: Western Pennsylvania Reflections

Co-editors Colleen Lutz Clemens and Rebecca Helm Beardsall took their vision for this book, a collection of stories written by regular folks about this unique area of the United States, and created this work of art. The end result is lovely. Having just finished reading the essays (and being one of authors), I am taken by the depth and variety of the pieces in this anthology. The book is organic, connected to the earth and the people who have lived, worked and laid to rest our loved ones here. Each writer’s voice is honest and comes through; some are funny and others, deeply moving. For those interested in stories about western Pennsylvania, this is a must-read.   — Sue Rumbaug

Like going home if you come from Western Pennsylvania. Anyone who has ties to this part of the state will enjoy the essays in this collection. – H. Sitler 

Enjoyable Pennsylvania stories from people around the state  – Diane Whitaker


Praise for: Philadelphia Reflections

What can be the best thing about a book of essays is that they are different flavors of the same main ingredient. This is the case in “Philadelphia Reflections”. In lovely, bite sized pieces, I was able to savor different aspects of a portion of the country that I am completely unfamiliar with. The theme mentioned in the book’s summary, “A City of Neighborhoods” proves more than true as the reader is introduced to Allentown, Pughtown, Oreland, Germantown and, of course, Philadelphia. Because each essay had such a different taste to it, I found myself reading only one each sitting – individually savoring the words and images and emotions these writers bring to life … I enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would. The images, the histories, both of place and of people, will stay with me for a long while. This place, that I have never been a part of, is part of me now.  – Karie Hoskins

You don’t have to live in PA to enjoy this collection. I spent a few years in central PA and was transported by these stories. They convey such a strong sense of place and are clearly written straight from the heart. – Jennifer Hollenstein


Praise for: Western Washington Reflections

This book, a compilation of creative personal non-fiction about life in Washington State is funny and thought provoking. There are many voices represented here, with diverse writing styles and an interesting synergy results from those differences. Laura Gibson’s piece on vigilante gardening in particular stands out as quintessential Washington. An enjoyable read for anyone, not just natives of the area.- MT