Returning to Earth: A Novel

Returning to Earth: A Novel

Jim Harrison

Language: English

Pages: 280

ISBN: 0802143318

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In the universally-praised Returning to Earth, Jim Harrison has delivered a masterpiece—a tender, profound, and magnificent novel about life, death, and the possibility of finding redemption in unlikely places. Donald is a middle-aged Chippewa-Finnish man slowly dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease. His condition deteriorating, he realizes no one 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 anyone—as around him, his family struggles to lay him to rest with the same dignity with which he has lived. Over the course of the year following Donald’s death, his daughter begins studying Chippewa ideas of death for clues about her father’s religion, while Cynthia, bereft of the family she created to escape the malevolent influence of her own father, finds that redeeming the past is not a lost cause. Returning to Earth is a deeply moving book about origins and endings, making sense of loss, and living 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.

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the same. It embarrassed him when Jesse was on vacation in old Mexico and he had to drive the Burketts to the Episcopal church in that big Packard. The question was why they couldn’t walk a couple of blocks. Mr. Burkett had so many drunken driving tickets the authorities wouldn’t allow him behind the wheel. Dad said that people make terrible messes pretending they’re perfect. He knew the Bible preached against self-righteousness and people still went ahead and drowned in it. When Cynthia and I

him. He said no that he just ate canned food because he couldn’t chew with only a couple of teeth. He seemed worried that K was going to take the rest of the beer. There was crusty stuff in the corners of his eyes and his dogs stood up to bid us good-bye. [A week later Donald was still quite distressed about this trip to murder Floyd. Donald also had his most severe seizure to date. He said his whole body felt like his foot did when he dropped a cement block on it, which he did a couple of times

in Donald’s toolshed in back of the house. It had a woodstove for cool nights and mornings. At this latitude it’s hard for gardeners to have a reliable tomato crop. Once while visiting David near Grand Marais I noted a trace of snowflakes during the Fourth of July fireworks. Clare would sneak out to the toolshed after she thought her parents were asleep. I was eighteen and she seventeen but we were precocious in the varieties of lovemaking. Clare has her mother’s “matter-of-factness” and

cried. I mean I don’t know if I’m pregnant but I said I was. He always wanted grandchildren. I said if it’s a boy I’ll name him Clarence after his father, and if it’s a girl we’ll have another Cynthia in the world.” “Jesus Christ, he won’t even see the baby.” “Yes, he will. In his religion you stay on the ghost road for a year or so and then we have a ceremony and throw tobacco in the bonfire and let his spirit go to the other world. He said that we could still love him but we had to let him

and wanted to know the precise nature of electricity. Clare stopped by and said we were needed at the day-care center Cynthia had started a few years before. Many mothers who worked in the Soo were going to be late getting back because of the snowstorm. The two women who worked at the day-care center were afraid of the storm and wanted to go home to their families. When we got there Herald had started a wood fire in the stove in case the electricity went off, which it finally did, but Donald

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