Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book Review: Flyover Lives: A Memoir by Diane Johnson

Flyover Lives: A Memoir by Diane Johnson
Published by: Viking
Published on: January 16, 2014
Page Count: 263
Genre: Memoir
My Reading Format: Hardcover provided by the publisher
Available Formats: Hardcover, Kindle edition, Audible audio edition, audio CD, MP3 CD

My Review:

Diane Johnson, author of Le Divorce (most familiar to me) and more than a dozen other books, pulls together her writing life and a story about those family members who came before her to shape her path. From a family that's been in the Midwest for generations, Johnson writes in Flyover Lives about a solid, no-frills upbringing, the results of family research, her life as a writer, her life as a single mother with young children and her current life with grown children and the freedom to travel with her husband. Johnson's book is divided into three sections: her life growing up in Moline, Illinois, the stories of her Midwestern ancestors and her writing life and more recent years.

I found Johnson's writing style to be in keeping with her upbringing: good stories told adequately but without all the flowery language. She presents her stories factually and honestly, and doesn't delve too deeply into her own inner workings. That's not to say that her stories aren't painting a picture of her life. They are, and in a way I really enjoyed reading. Johnson's early life in Moline is one that is different, simpler and more innocent than what children experience today, and it's nice to read about an upbringing like that. It was interesting to read about the family history she has uncovered and how it has helped her realize the good lot from which she comes, and the characteristics of her ancestors that she's inherited. I like the dichotomy of her life in Moline paired with her lives in other places, the premise for this book I think: Paris, California and London. 

There were times I had trouble finding the string that should hold the memoir together. Beginning and ending the book with a recent house party in France were in the right place as bookends to prop everything up, but there were places I got lost in the middle. But there were things I enjoyed immensely: the anecdotes and the stories of how a writer became a writer.
Three out of five stars

If you liked this book, you’ll like Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes by Elizabeth Bard.

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