Monday, November 11, 2013

The Distancers: An Ameriocan Memoir by Lee Sandlin

While many families have a historian who keeps track of marriages, births, deaths and that sometimes complicated family tree, few families have someone whose been able to capture the dreams, disappointments, and virtual essence of the key players within past generations.  Lee Sandlin has done that under the guise of telling how a single house became the glue that kept multiple generations of his family connected.  Only as an adult did Lee question why he, his siblings, and cousins spent their summers at this house with four adults they knew little about.  As he delved into finding out more about them, he never imagined that their stories would reveal lessons about the midwest, its values, his own family's secrets, and
a long valued family tradition of "keeping one's distance."

This book definitely shows that there are stories everywhere, even in those frame houses and four squares that have lined the fields and village blocks of the midwest's smallest towns since the last days of the nineteenth century While interesting to read, a sad thread of truth runs throughout this book.  Seldom do we reach our potential; our dreams seldom come true, yet the years tick away.  Those people you've always known as close mouthed, serious adults may have at one time been busting with desires -- desires they've now kept buried so long that they can no longer acknowledge them.  This brings another question -- do we really want to know the whole story of everybody's life?  Reading this book makes me think of the distant cousins (several generations back) on my mother's side.  I think there were 7 or 8 siblings, and not one, not a single one married or had children.
I believe that as adults all lived and later died in their childhood home. What story lies hidden there?  How could not one of them found love or companionship?  Do I really want to know the answer?  Or is it better to sink my thoughts into another fiction story instead-- where the pain, disappointments, and yes, the happy endings are only made up?

Truthfully, The Distancers is an interesting look back, perhaps telling more than any sociology textbook.

The Distancers book cover art

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