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Loss and Love

This is Leslie VonHolten for the HPPR Radio Readers’ Summer Reading List.
My two summer reading suggestions are both memoirs about love and loss. Losing and loving special people in our lives and loving and losing a life-sustaining element of our land.

This is Leslie VonHolten for the HPPR Radio Readers’ Summer Reading List.

My two summer reading suggestions are both memoirs about love and loss. Losing and loving special people in our lives and loving and losing a life-sustaining element of our land.

The first book is Lost & Found by Kathryn Schulz (2022). This slim memoir explores the emotional landscape of love—both the paths of finding a celebratory and lifelong love, and the shapes and shadows of grief when a deeply loved person dies.

Schulz uses her own experiences, a light touch with psychology and social science research, and other works of literature to build her narrative. The first section, Lost, is about her father’s death. She begins by wondering why when someone dies, do we say, “I lost my father?” We know exactly where our beloved person is. Or do we? How can we reconcile the complicated realities of death with the unknowing of what comes next—and what do we do with our love within those questions?

The second half of the book—the found of Lost & Found—is cheerier, but just as mysterious. Schulz tells us about meeting and falling in love with the woman who will become her wife. The discoveries and revelations, the vulnerability and strength found in finding a partner in life, and knowing that it will be a life together. Until death do us part. Schulz conveys this everyday but difficult-to-describe birth and blossoming of love with such ease. Lost & Found is a joyous meditation on love in its deepest manifestations, the kind of love that forever changes us—our hearts, our mental wiring, even our bodies and our worldviews.

My second book recommendation is also about love and loss—this time, the Ogallala Aquifer. Running Out: In Search of Water on the High Plains by Lucas Bessire (2021) is at once personal memoir that feels universal to all of us on the High Plains. Hard work, stoic personalities, grit, and the whims of the weather.

Bessire grew up in southwest Kansas. His grandmother was a community historian who recorded her perspectives on later pioneer life and local happenings, among other topics. She had a special deep interest in springs and water, especially the Cimarron River and Wagonbed Springs, which was an important watering spot on the Santa Fe Trail. Both of these sites were drying up before her eyes.

Fast forward to today. We all know the aquifer is in danger of being depleted, so why isn’t there a focused effort to save it? Politics, of course, and capitalism and the built systems of power and profit. That’s no surprise. But Bessire untangles these issues as he also untangles the mysteries of his family’s history. His grandmother, fierce, frustrated, and lonely in a place she loved but that also left her few choices. For her descendants, we see tensions between father and son, but good effort and a common love of the land helping build back their relationship.

The power of both of these books is that they refrain from preaching to us. Both Schulz and Bessire tell us, gently, hey, this is my experience with this kind of love, this kind of loss. Maybe you see yourself in it, or maybe your experience is different. That, to me, is the power of reading and sharing book recommendations during my summer travels—they open paths for us to explore together, to discuss and learn and connect.

This is Leslie VonHolten for the HPPR Radio Readers Book Club. Here’s to good rain, good travels, and good books for this summer! Find more summer reading suggestions at HPPR.org, or Like us on Facebook—and tell us what you’re reading now.

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Summer Read 2022: Summer Reading List 2022 Summer ReadHPPR Radio Readers Book Club
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