The beloved author of Refuge returns with a work that explodes and startles, illuminates and celebrates.
Terry Tempest Williams's mother told her: "I am leaving you all my journals, but you must promise me you won't look at them until after I'm gone."
Fans of Williams's iconic and unconventional memoir, Refuge, well remember that mother. She was a member of a large Mormon clan in northern Utah who developed cancer as a result of the nuclear testing in nearby Nevada. It was a shock to Williams to discover that her mother had kept journals. But not as much of a shock as what she found when the time came to read them.
They were exactly where she said they would be: three shelves of beautiful cloth-bound books.... "I opened the first journal. It was empty. I opened the second journal. It was empty. I opened the third. It too was empty.... Shelf after shelf after shelf, all of my mother's journals were blank."
What did Williams's mother mean by that? In 54 chapters that unfold like a series of yoga poses, each with its own logic and beauty, Williams creates a lyrical and caring meditation of the mystery of her mother's journals. When Women Were Birds is a kaleidoscope that keeps turning around the question "What does it mean to have a voice?"
©2012 Terry Tempest Williams (P)2012 Wind Over The Earth
This book is amazing, and even better when read in the author's own voice. From the opening chapter, which introduces the haunting image of the dozens of blank journals the author's mother left to her after her death, to the final chapter as Williams finally comes to terms with this act, the book is a tour de force which leaves the listener breathless. Williams delves into her life with a kind of courage few people possess. From her family's proud Mormon pioneer history, to her own bird watching childhood, from the early days of her marriage to her later years as an environmental activist, Williams reveals powerful scenes from her life, seamlessly laced with her own musings, which all add up to a portrait of a remarkable woman.
Though the book is intensely personal, it is not a memoir; the title, Fifty-four Variations on Voice, is very appropriate. What binds its fifty-four chapters together is the issue of voice: What does it mean to have a voice? What does it mean to lack a voice? How does someone find their voice? How do women find their voice? How does one speak for the people or places or things which cannot speak for themselves? Every anecdote, every fact, every philosophical reflection eventually relates back to these problems. With her mother's blank journals as a focal point, Williams dives into this issue of voice with an openness and passion.
Given this emphasis on voice, it is highly appropriate that this book become an audiobook. The considerations of voice become all the more meaningful when one hears them read in the author's own voice.
What's more, Williams's voice as she reads is positively mesmerizing. Commanding yet soft-spoken, at times she sounds like Scheherazade, spinning a forbidden tale; other times she is the voice of a wise elder sharing deep secrets; at some moments she even takes on the role of an activist raising a call to arms. Yet throughout the book she maintains a tranquility, a thoughtfulness, that invites the reader to join her in the private meditations of her soul. Her calm, measured voice makes it seem as though she is weighing each word again before she speaks it aloud, and this gives each word a weight and a magical quality that makes the whole book come alive. In this way, her rendition becomes a towering example of what can happen when a person sets out to find a voice, and the audiobook becomes evidence of the success of her own quest.
As Williams says in Chapter 9 about her experiences in speech therapy as a child, "My task was to honor the power of each word by delivering it as beautifully as I could." Listeners to this audiobook will find she has more than succeeded.
There's always time for reading
I read this as a fan of TTW, not expecting much... after all, it was a book about women and I am a guy. Within minutes, I was drawn in deeply. Ms. Williams shares what it means to be a daughter, a woman, a wife, a child of LDS upbringing, a writer, a birder in a way that is magical. Her writing, as always, is lyrical and thoughtful--improved on this audio version by her own reading. I plan to buy copies of this book for the women in my life for mothers day.
Vast and yet compact story of a Utah naturalist who writes like a poet.
The writer, storyteller and narrator--all Terry Tempest Williams--shares that world of birds and wilderness. And humanity's place within this realm.
The entire book is indivisible. The entire book is compelling, written graciously though at times irascible--cranky even while still engaging.
I realized at the end of this book that I would love to read it again.
Have already secured copies as gifts for friends.
After listening to the beginning of this book on audio, I bought a copy to reread at night. The prose are so beautiful, many pages more like poetry, that I needed to hear and see the words. I plan to buy multiple copies of this book and audio to give to friends.
I did not read the printed version - although I plan to. This is a book I want in my library - to have it handy to look at and refer to when I want to. There are so many passages that I want to remember - this book has impacted my life in ways that I'll be unpackaging for a long time.
Having an author read their own work is so wonderful - you feel the heart and passion as they read the words. It's like sitting across the kitchen table with a cup of tea and a good friend - a very wise friend.
I would have loved to listen to it in one sitting, but there is also joy in putting it down and delighting in the anticipation of beginning the story where you left off. I looked forward to getting back to the book. When the end of the story came, it felt like a perfect ending. I sighed and appreciated the heartfelt prose. But started looking for the next Terry Tempest Williams book to explore.
A lovely book. read by the author. Williams weaves her love of nature, her family history and the power of women together into a story that anyone who love, especially if you live in the West, have been touched by cancer or want an inspiring listen to make your day.
Listening to Terry narrate the books was as enjoyable as the story itself. Her voice is velvet, and her intonations enhance the whole experience, which is almost dream-like. The repetition of her line "My mother's journals are..." became almost a mantra as she gave voice to the many shades of meaning of the journals. I listened to this book on a road trip of 2 days, and it made the many miles just melt away with her deep explorations of self and metaphor.
This book is a deep meditation, as well as a many-layered exploration of women's issues and relationships. It is a must-read for any woman contemplating the meaning of her life. After hearing the audio book, I want to sit down and read the book myself for further understandings. This will be one of my permanent additions to my library.
I am a big Terry Tempest Williams fan, this audio was excellant. In fact, I just bought the book so I can savour the words and read it slowly with more contemplation. Her ability to describe her life, her mother's journals are exquisite. I highly recommend this audio and thoroughly enjoy Terry as the narrator.
The realism. The flow of the book. The use of the written word to "make me see and feel".
This book made me think about my relationship with my mother and my relationship with my daughter. In many instances I could stand in her shoes as if they were my own.
Yes. Terry's voice and emotion moves you to tears at times. It feels as if she is speaking to you
Her presence in itself. Her voice, her honestly, her pace,... Everything about the way she reads captures your heart and keeps you hostage until the end. Two days later I'm still under her spell in the best way possible.
Highly recommend it.
Love to read memoirs and tales of life's many journeys. Words have the power to transform our lives!
I placed so many bookmarks throughout it is impossible to pick a favorite!
I wanted to sit and listen to the whole thing at once but this isn't a book to read while performing everyday activities. It requires thoughtful insight and reflection. I have a better understanding of self and women around me after reading this. Thank you Terry Tempest Williams!
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