Hailed by The New York Times Book Review as “a master … who makes the ordinary extraordinary, the unnamable unforgettable,” beloved author Jim Harrison returns with a masterpiece—a tender, profound, and magnificent novel about life, death, and finding redemption in unlikely places. Slowly dying of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Donald, a middle-aged Chippewa-Finnish man, begins dictating family stories he has never shared with anyone, hoping to preserve history for his children. The dignity of Donald’s death and his legacy encourages his loved ones to find a way to redeem—and let go of—the past, whether through his daughter’s emersion in Chippewa religious ideas or his mourning wife’s attempt to escape the malevolent influence of her own father. A deeply moving book about origins and endings, and how to live with honor for the dead, Returning to Earth is one of the finest novels of Harrison’s long, storied career, and will confirm his standing as one of the most important American writers now working.
K looked a bit haggard, perhaps from the effort of trying to bring equilibrium to Clare. I was looking at him trying to think of something helpful to say in Clare’s absence but then he disappeared behind the memory of a dream I had been having on the porch swing. The dream was chaotic but began with milk cows and numbers. Around the turn of the century, say from 1890 to 1910 when mine disasters were at their worst in terms of fatality numbers the victims’ families in company housing were welcome to stay in the housing but only for a month. For this time the families continued to have the use of a milk cow. I had seen old photos of these often gaunt milk cows in rocky pastures near the company row houses and women on stools milking the cows into buckets often with children watching. For a moment in the dream I thought I saw Cynthia on a stool but the woman more closely resembled my mother. Then numbers began to appear in the landscape. Numbers often marred my interesting dreams but in this case Donald was number one but the number was blurred. This was an area where in three major mines nearly two thousand men had died in a twenty year period. In the dream I finally understood that death and numbers don’t cohere. Everyone is “one.” An accident report might say that nine died, four of them in their teens, but each death was “one.” Each of six million Jews was “one.” With death it is a series of “ones.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
JIM HARRISON is the author of over 25 books of fiction, nonfiction, & poetry. The winner of a National Endowment for the Arts grant and a Guggenheim Fellowship, his work has been published in 22 languages.