Tuesday, July 10, 2012

When Women Were Birds by Terry Tempest Williams


I needed some non-fiction to ground me after John Irving, and Terry Tempest Williams writes with a lovely, transcendental voice. In fact, voice is the subject of her fifty-four short musings in this beautiful little book. Williams is an environmentalist, and a Mormon. As her mother was preparing to die from cancer she told Williams she was leaving her three shelves of her journals which were not to be opened until after her death. Her daughter obeyed only to find all of the journals were blank and her mother no longer alive to ask for an explanation. Instead, she authors her mothers musings - about nature, bearing children and the Mormon faith. The book is full of rhetorical questions and declarative statements defining the journals. Having waited 25 years to write about these journals has given Williams time to ponder. She concludes that the journals were left to her as a summons to listen carefully to what was not being said and what consider what can only be felt. The book touched be particularly because my mother has left me for the silence of Alzheimers. Although I spend time with her, the time is full of silences which I fill with her missing voice from the past. The book helped me to see these silences as a treasure of sorts.

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