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Hannah and the Mountain: Notes Toward a Wilderness Fatherhood (American Lives)by Jonathan Johnson
Synopses & Reviews
Longing for a home in big, wild country that would keep them passionate and young, Jonathan Johnson and his wife, Amy, set out to build a log cabin on his familys land in a remote and beautiful corner of Idaho. But what began as a doable dream for the two of them suddenly looks quite different when, on their first morning in the cabin—without electricity, a telephone, running water, or real windows—the couple learn that Amy is pregnant.
In this lyrical and intimate chronicle of making a home the hard way, Johnson describes the competing joys and anxieties of preparing for fatherhood in a setting as challenging as it is promising: a paradise of mythic snowfalls and warming wood stoves and elk tracks at the front door, but also a place where vision, and even struggle and compromise, are not always enough. Hannah and the Mountain tells a rare and delicate story of two people exploring the unmapped territories of loss and grief and finding solace and grace in the mountains. It offers the reader an unforgettable portrait of a couple growing up, learning natures hard and beautiful lessons, and discovering a love of place and each other strong and wild enough to renew them and be carried into the future
"A couple seeks life's deeper meaning in a return to the land — 'a place that would keep us young and free and filled with passion' — and faces both hardship and joy. It's a familiar American story these days, but Johnson tells it with compassion and grace, focusing in particular on his wife Amy's pregnancy and their preparations to bring a baby into their wilderness world. Amy and the author must refurbish their cabin, which is situated on his family's Idaho land; they worry about money; they debate about where Amy will give birth. But the narrative takes a wrenching turn when they learn that Amy is unlikely to carry the fetus to term. The desperate measures the author once took to save a winter-born calf poignantly resonate with the couple's ultimately futile attempts to bring their baby, Hannah, to term. A later pregnancy ends in miscarriage. These sorrows can make for grim material, and readers expecting lots of lovely nature writing will be disappointed, but Johnson is an elegant, emotive narrator; as the couple's story of healing progresses, one will sense that happiness (and a baby) will find these two eventually." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
John W. Evans was twenty-nine years old and his wife, Katie, was thirty. They had met in the Peace Corps in Bangladesh, taught in Chicago, studied in Miami, and were working for a year in Romania when they set off with friends to hike into the Carpathian Mountains. In an instant their life together was shattered. Katie became separated from the group. When Evans finally found her, he could only watch helplessly as she was mauled to death by a brown bear.
In such a love story, such a life story, how could a person ever move forward? That is the question Evans, traumatized and restless, confronts in this book as he learns the language of grief, the rhetoric of survival, and the contrary algorithms of holding fast and letting go. His memories of Katie and their time together, and the strangeness of his life with her family in the year after her death, create an unsentimental but deeply moving picture of loss, the brutality of nature, and the unfairness of needing to narrate a story that nothing can prepare a person to tell.
Told with unyielding witness, elegance, and care, Young Widower is a heartbreaking account of a senseless tragedy and the persistence of grief in a young persons life.
About the Author
Jonathan Johnson is an assistant professor at the Inland Northwest Center for Writers, the graduate writing program at Eastern Washington University. His work has appeared in various literary magazines and in The Best American Poetry. He is the author of Mastodon, 80% Complete, a book of poems.
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