Realizing River City is an introspective look into one woman's search for happiness. Author Melissa Grunow subscribes to the belief that happiness can be found only through the companionship of and coupling with a man, and her memoir focuses on this narrow band of experience. With each chapter, she introduces the reader to a prospective life companion and descriptively reveals the ups and increasingly predictable downs of the relationship.
An eternal optimist, Grunow lures the reader through her tales of lust, booze, and love lost, and lost again. Her tales slide between the Southwest to the Midwest, with descriptive details in both locales. Her tales and details are eloquently interwoven and succeed in sustaining this reader's attention. Each relationship, regardless of how brief or apparently meaningless, was entertained for its potential of being the one. Each is offered with a fresh openness of her willingness to adapt and blend into the man's world, and expectations that deteriorate as Gurnow realizes the relationship does not make her happy.
The sagas are much easier to read as a disinterested and unbiased observer than to experience as the woman in each of us who has been schooled to believe that completeness can be found through a relationship with a man. And by Chapter 8, I wanted to pull the author aside and let her know the fruitlessness of her ongoing quest and convince her of the value of other aspects of her life. (Some readers may become weary of her seemingly never-ending string of encounters with men.)
Honesty and straightforwardness are the hallmarks of this book, and it is Grunow's transparency that fueled this reader. Her opening and closing scenes are the strongest writing in the book, offering both compelling description and revealing symbolism that seal this fine reading experience.
Melissa Grunow is a contributing writer to Literary Arts Review. She was a Pushcart Prize nominee for her essay "Home" and an Editor's Pick by Limestone for essay "We're All Mad Here: A Field Guide to Feigning Sanity." She is three-time recipient of the Detroit Working Writers creative nonfiction prize, a semi-finalist for the 2015 DISQUIET International Literary Lisbon Writing Program award, and a 2012 and 2014 participant in the Antioch Writers' Workshop Fall Retreat. Visit her website.
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