The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings

Title Details

Pages: 208

Trim size: 5.500in x 8.250in



Pub Date: 03/01/2013

ISBN: 9-780-8203-4593-2

List Price: $24.95

The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings

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In this ensemble of beautifully personal, interrelated essays, writer and poet Rebecca McClanahan weaves together threads of stories and common experiences to create a meditation on family life. She explores the familiar rituals, the shared dreams, and the guarded secrets that tie family together as she unravels the mysteries behind familial relationships. Throughout, McClanahan seeks to identify what it means to be an individual within the context of kinship and unexpected connections.

Besides navigating her own emotional landscape and her family's, McClanahan revisits the physical places of her childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. She takes us to the military bases where her father and husband were stationed, to the cemeteries she loved as both child and adult, and to the various hospitals and homes that served as backdrops for family crises and celebrations. Without sentimentality, she considers the meaning of losses—the loss of a child, a family home, and a family pet, and a lost chance at motherhood.

Partly fashioned around the lines of the folk tune "The Riddle Song," The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings captures the palpable bonds that exist between mothers, daughters, fathers, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and grandparents. Through intuitive and exquisite language, Rebecca McClanahan reveals the strange and enchanting patterns that connect her to these ancestral souls.

Lyrical, compelling, and compassionate, the words contained in The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings continue to move and amaze me. Stunningly vivid in its detail, heartbreaking in its emotional vision, this book rings long and true.

—Kim Barnes, author of In the Wilderness

A dazzling first book of personal essays . . . each one so sensitively (and sensuously) rooted in actual existence that I continually had to remind myself that I was reading about someone's life, not living it myself. Writing rarely gets this emotionally real.

—Robert Atwan, series editor, The Best American Essays

The prose is very clean, crisp as ironed linen, even simple in spots—but I will tell you this: I cried all the way through it, and almost nothing I read makes me cry.

Midwestern Riffs

Very few memoirs achieve the raw beauty, the searing honesty, and the transcendent shimmer of McClanahan's rememberings.

Charlotte Observer

McClanahan weaves a quilt that beckons us with its warmth . . . without striking a false, much less sentimental, note.

Georgia Review

McClanahan's deliberate regard for craft . . . opens the door to an important use of memoir as a genre.


McClanahan sweeps you along with a barrage of detail and lovely prose. She has the knack of summoning emotion through facts and presentation. . . . McClanahan is excellent company, whether at a hospital bedside, over a glass of wine, or walking between rows of graves.

—Robert Boucheron, New Orleans Review

The collection stands well above the self-indulgent meanderings that flood large sections of our bookstore shelves.

American Book Review


Shenandoah/Glasgow Prize for Emerging Writers, Shenandoah and Washington and Lee University

About the Author/Editor

REBECCA McCLANAHAN is the author of several poetry collections, including Naked as Eve and The Intersection of X and Y, as well as several writing manuals, including Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively and Write Your Heart Out. She lives in New York City.