By the Iowa Sea

by Joe Blair

Reviewed 16 March 2013

Joe Blair’s excellent memoir roils and surges like the flooded Iowa rivers which were his inspiration. He is fearless and honest as he recounts a year of parallel tragedies.

Beyond his blunt and scorching truth telling, Blair has an ability to transform the banal. A butterfly caught beneath a windshield wiper offers an opportunity to recollect and interpret events from a deep personal past in language so sparse and perfect it left me aching and breathless. The tree in autumn was so bright it looked like it had been plugged in… I’m speechless.

Of course, there’s no way I can know, but I feel as if every single thing about Joe Blair is in this book, that he was brave enough to tell the complete story. That quality made this, for me, a compelling read – most of my actual friends have told me far less about themselves.

And I’m sorry that he left Iowa, though I understand. I was born there, and I left, too.

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