Returning to Earth: A Novel

Returning to Earth: A Novel

Jim Harrison

Language: English

Pages: 280

ISBN: 0802143318

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In the universally-praised Returning to Earth, Jim Harrison has delivered a masterpiece—a tender, profound, and magnificent novel about life, death, and the possibility of finding redemption in unlikely places. Donald is a middle-aged Chippewa-Finnish man slowly dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease. His condition deteriorating, he realizes no one will be able to pass on to his children their family history once he is gone. He begins dictating to his wife, Cynthia, stories he has never shared with anyone—as around him, his family struggles to lay him to rest with the same dignity with which he has lived. Over the course of the year following Donald’s death, his daughter begins studying Chippewa ideas of death for clues about her father’s religion, while Cynthia, bereft of the family she created to escape the malevolent influence of her own father, finds that redeeming the past is not a lost cause. Returning to Earth is a deeply moving book about origins and endings, making sense of loss, and living with honor for the dead. It is among the finest novels of Harrison’s long, storied career, and confirms his standing as one of the most important American writers now working.





















clearly not wanting to finish his eggs. She kisses his forehead and he blushes. She told me that when he comes home a couple of times a year he’ll go down to Getz’s clothing store and buy a half dozen of the same shirt so he won’t have to decide what to wear. She thinks her uncle is “goofy” but she likes him very much. Her dog Betty comes into the den, jumps up on the bed with Donald, and growls at David. “Nice dog,” he says. In David you see the inevitable melancholy of the mix of high

days.” Clare was displeased and shrieked “Mother!” Cynthia has always ignored ordinary proprieties. I mean, she behaves like a lady of high birth like her mother but in a restaurant she might push away her plate and tell the waitress the food tasted like dog poop. Cynthia draws me aside and says we have to talk. Immediately my stomach sinks. The odor of Clare’s mosquito-bite lotion reminds me of my grandmother in Iron Mountain who covered me with the stuff. We walk down the hill to the old Coast

her clientele would be the sons and daughters of larger coffee plantation owners, and the more prosperous students from the local university and medical school. Two niftily dressed salesgirls approached and I simply said, “Vera” and one escorted me to an office through a closed door in the back. Vera was clearly her father’s daughter. She was behind a very big desk going through bills and receipts as Jesse had done at my father’s desk in the den in Marquette. She was a very attractive

to the house. I tried to think of something to say to Clare, which made me want a drink. There was a jealous notion that Flower had become Clare’s mother during this dark time. What did I have to offer? Should I say to Clare that your father is forever dead to you and you should resume your life? In my mind’s eye I could see Donald and Clare packing for one of their countless fishing trips with Clare at age seven in pigtails sitting at the kitchen table going over her list of needed supplies

wasn’t excited about seeing the bear but decided to trust Clare’s judgment. When we got close to the ridge and could hear the ravens on the other side Clare saw the bear tracks, which had emerged from a neck of forest to the west of us. She said she had been out there with K a few days before tracking bears that came to the dunes to eat the vines of beach pea and wild strawberries. In the shade of the dune we found a patch of wild strawberries and ate some despite the sand granules that clung to

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