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"Are You There Alone?""Who Could That Be at This Hour?"3 Willows4th of July99 DaysA Beautiful MindA Change in AltitudeA Corner Of The UniverseA Falling KnifeA Frog ThingA Great and Terrible BeautyA People's History of ChristianityA Question of BloodA Slight Trick of the MindA Step Toward FallingA Thousand Miles from NowhereA Tragic Kind of WonderfulA Voyage Long and StrangeA Wedding in December Abraham LincolnAcross the River and Into the TreesADHD NationAfter DarkAgainst EmpathyAgainst Medical AdviceAll the Bright PlacesAll the Way HomeAll Unquiet ThingsAlphavilleAlways Forever MaybeAlways Too Much And Never EnoughAmerica AmericaAmong the DepartedAn EducationAn Object of BeautyAnatomy of a MisfitAre You There, Vodka? 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Family life, the busy, bustling time that includes change and growing, working and nurturing, is much of what this book is about. At mid-life Ms Kenison finds herself searching for what is important in life, for herself, her husband, and their two boys. As if a family of four doesn’t have enough to keep them busy, they decide to make a move from the home they have lived in since the children were very young, and embark on new horizons. Teenagers and preteens are often not the happiest recipients of such change in their lives, and the Kenison boys are no exception, as they voice their disappointments over the years as the family lives in an old falling-apart farmhouse for a summer, and with their grandparents for the rest of three years’ time.
When the story begins, Ms. Kenison works from home as a successful editor. While she seems to be able to focus most of her attention and time on raising her boys, with work being done after little people’s bedtimes, it becomes clear when she loses her job, how significant it was to her and her family, as a piece of her identity, and as a source of family income. Her quest for simplicity and appreciation of ordinary things had begun before she lost her job, but losing her job was no doubt a major contributor to the realization that her importance as a person was more than being an editor, and that this was just a part of the reinvention she had begun.
Interesting things happen during the time that is represented by this book, these stories: all the family realizes the importance of their growing and working together, they all came to love the old farmhouse, and want some parts of it in the new house they build and they do realize the value of slowing down. Moving from one city and state that is entirely comfortable, with home and community with familiarity built of years of shared lives, and on to another, small town with lives that have been sharing their own stories for those years cannot have been simple. But as the years and events pass, bringing the Kenisons lives into their new community, they make friends, and create these new stories, their own places within their new home and town.
Meanwhile, the boys are growing up, and we as reader (or in this case, listener) join the process of exploring, applying, visiting, and deciding upon, universities. And the younger boy’s transition from the only house he’s known, to new places to live, and new schools, is also a process. Teenage years are not easy at the best of time, let alone with so much transition. However, it seems that the Kenisons have enough shared support, through faith and love, that they will weather the storms and the joys, within this book, and more to come.
Ms. Kenison reads her own book in this audio edition: she has a pleasant, clear voice, and a friendly style. There are times that the content of the stories seems repetitive, but perhaps that is how it is, as one is reflecting upon one’s life, and the lives of one’s husband, and boys who are growing fast, and who have been the recipients of so much of the focus of the parents’ attentions. Having not been a parent myself, but instead focusing much time and attention on education and profession, I suppose it is easy to be carried away with what is interesting and exciting to each of us. It was enjoyable listening to the stories of the changes and challenges they met and overcame, the friendships they formed, and basically just the opportunity to be part of their lives for some hours.
© 2010 Margaret Riley
Margaret Riley, MS, RN, Instructor, Loretto Heights School of Nursing, Regis University