“[Harrison’s] books glisten with love of the world, and are as grounded as Thoreau’s in the particulars of American placeits rivers and thickets, its highways and taverns. Bawdily and with unrelenting gusto, Harrison’s 40 years of writing explores what constitutes a good life, both aesthetically and morally, on this planet. . . . Quietly magnificent . . . A luminous, sad calm pervades this novel. . . . [An] extraordinary valediction to mourning. It sharpens one’s appetite for life even at its darkest.” Will Blythe, The New York Times Book Review
Returning to Earth
978-0-8021-4331-0 • $14.00 • Paperback • Sep. 2007
“[Harrison’s] books . . . are as grounded as Thoreau’s in the particulars of American placeits rivers and thickets, its highways and taverns. . . . Quietly magnificent . . . Returning to Earth sharpens one’s appetite for life.” Will Blythe, The New York Times Book Review (front-cover review)
Now in paperback, Jim Harrison’s Returning to Earth has been universally praised, and is one of his most popular recent books. In Returning to Earth, Harrison has delivered a masterpiecea tender, profound, and magnificent novel about life, death, and how it is sometimes possible to find redemption in unlikely places.
Donald is a middle-aged Chippewa-Finnish man, married to a white woman who renounced the wealth she was raised with, and father to two grown children. As Returning to Earth opens he is slowly dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease. His condition deteriorating, he realizes no one alive will be able to pass on to his children their family history once he is gone. He begins dictating to his wife, Cynthia, stories he has never shared with anyoneas around him, his family struggles with how to lay him to rest with the same dignity with which he has always lived.
Over the course of the year following Donald’s death, his loved ones struggle with how to let him go. His daughter begins studying Chippewa ideas of death for clues about her father’s religion, and her mother is at loose ends for how to protect or guide her. Bereft of the family she created to escape the malevolent influence of her own father, Cynthia, along with her brother, David, an eccentric whose life mission is to prevent Mexican bordercrossers from dying in transit, find, all these years later, that redeeming the past is not a lost cause.
Returning to Earth is a deeply moving book about origins and endings, how to make sense of loss, and how to live with honor for the dead. It is among the finest novels of Harrison’s long, storied career, and confirms his standing as one of the most important American writers now working.