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Spotlight Review (and Open Worldcat Musings): The Night Gardener

In my writing program, I’m quickly developing an allergy to the memoir. Not that it isn’t a valid form, but I am starting to think, can anyone write anything but memoir?

The Night Gardener, by Marjorie Sandor, proves that the answer to that is a resounding “Yes.” These highly personal essays go above straightforward storytelling to take the reader into a world exploring everything from new motherhood to fly fishing, sibling rivalry to life after marriage. Sandor isn’t content to show the world she describes; she plumbs it delicately but insistently, taking us into the deepest questions about life as easily as she catches a trout. That makes The Night Gardener a perfect book to hand to a memoir reader restless for something different, or to use as an introduction to personal essays for readers curious about the craft. If they never knowingly read another essay, at least they will have read this beautiful book.

I find Sanders’ essays so accessible and personable that I’d enthusiatically recommend this book for a reading group looking for something beyond fiction. Should you do the same, note that The Night Gardener, published in 1999, appears to be out of print (and apparently never issued in paper), but a quick search in Open Worldcat located it in six of my local public libraries.

(OCLC, why don’t you get one of your whiz kids to write a Movable Type plugin similar to the MT-Amazon plugin, but retrieving, of course, Worldcat library holdings? I’d switch.)

Oh, and re memoir: I do know why writing students resort to memoir. It’s not self-absorption. Most of the time we’re too darn busy to do research, and memoir gives us the freedom to concentrate on craft. (Although, having said that, I have done research on myself for memoir writing. What can I say? I’m a librarian.)

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