Reviews from the SCN Memoir Challenge

SCN HerStories Challenge

Winning entries in the HerStories Memoir Challenge are posted here. Congratulations to all!


Together, Alone: A Memoir of Marriage and Place
by Susan Wittig Albert

University of Texas Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-292-71970-5.
Reviewed by Martha Meacham
October, 2009

A portrait of a woman's self-discovery and a guided-tour of her heart and soul, Together, Alone, is a rich landscape of observations and reflections that illuminate the notions of both a seeker of solitude and a committed partner.

The author shares her deep awareness of the land in a walkabout from the bluebonnet-covered meadows of the Texas hill country to the stark, wind-swept plains of the Gulf Coast.

Abundant tidbits on native plants and local histories inform the reader, while the veneration with which she depicts all living creatures creates a sense of kinship with the natural world.

I felt like I learned something about myself, after sharing the author's journey.


Spring's Edge: A Ranch Wife's Chronicles
by Laurie Wagner Buyer

University of New Mexico Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-826-34391-8.
Reviewed by Martha Meacham
September, 2009

The author beckoned me to get in step with her on her walks throughout vast Colorado ranch lands, as her tale unfolded with an easy rhythm of a hardscrabble life in sync with nature's cycles.

Her simple depictions of daily ranch chores and her household tasks of preparing meals for her husband, provide a metronome-like tempo while bringing attention to both the demands and joys of rural life.

A somewhat melancholy account of the difficulty of ranch life, her journal entries describe her marital relationship with remarkable honesty, exposing the highs and lows, resentment and isolation she feels.

By the time the tourists and RV's were lining Woodland Park highways for the summer tourist season, I felt I had survived blizzards in the Rocky Mountains and joined her in hoping for the transformations that a change of season brings.


Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession
by Anne Rice

Alfred A. Knopf, 2008. ISBN 978-0-307-26827-3.
Reviewed by Linda Hoye
January, 2009

This book was a fascinating journey of Rice's journey through her childlike faith, to atheism, and ultimately a return to her faith. The first part of the book made me nostalgic for a past that wasn't my own, but that she depicted in such a way as to make me yearn for the simpler faith-filled time in which she grew up. Her journey away from the church of her childhood, and eventually away from her God was presented in such a way that allowed the reader to empathize and even understand some of her choices. Rice's honesty in describing her return to her faith is commendable and, while I may not agree with her completely, I appreciate her sharing her experience and expect that this book will resonate with many who have stepped away from the faith of their childhood.


Grace (Eventually) Thoughts on Faith
by Anne Lamott

The Penguin Group, 2007. ISBN 978-1-59448-942-6.
Reviewed by Marjorie Witt
April, 2009

I am a big fan of Anne Lamott and especially enjoy her "vignette" style of writing used in this memoir. This book goes on my "reminder to keep a sense of humor" shelf, always available for a quick chapter re-read when life's speed bumps seem mountain high. Anne hits on many daunting areas of life from birth to death balancing heartfelt and honest humor with her spiritual perspectives, often salted with her dominant political or religious preferences. Grace comes through Anne's abilty to take a common life occurance, mix it up with rich metaphors, a bit of sarcastic humor and a revelation of personal shortcomings to create thought provoking pieces best savored one story at a time.


Hiking Alone: Trails Out, Trails Home
by Mary Beath

UNM Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0-8263-4329-1.
Reviewed by Mary Stuever
March, 2009

Mary Beath's Hiking Alone: Trails Out, Trails Home is a gift to the world and to the women—and those who love the women—who heed the call of the wild. Though I have hiked thousands of miles alone, I admire Beath's courage in tackling ground I haven't dared cross. Her bold published words reveal a private world of her father's failed ambitions to be a writer, her own struggles in relationships, her tight rope performances dancing between art an science, and her infatuation with her instructor during a wilderness-based vision quest. Beath's prose is like a poem or painting that illuminates the ordinary into pure magic.


Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
by Azar Nafisi

Random House, Inc., 2003. ISBN 978-0-375-50490-7.
Reviewed by Rhonda Esakov
February, 2009

While living through several years of war between Iran and Iraq; with missiles shrieking over head, buildings bombed and lives destroyed, Nafisi and other women in Tehran temporarily escape the violence by delving into the imaginative world of novels. Even as books are disappearing and bookstores being shut down, the author and a hand-picked group of students, all female, meet to talk more about books. Reading such books as The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, and Lolita, they risk imprisonment, rape, beatings and possible execution to claim their independence (privately) from a government that uses fear and intimidation to control them. This intense book gives us a glimpse into a world gone mad-where even something so mundane to the Western world as a reading circle could not be taken for granted.


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