In clean and loving prose, Leaving Parma tells us the story of one family from one small town in Idaho, and in doing that, manages the important feat of telling us something about America as well.
Mike Barenti is the author of Kayaking Alone: Nine Hundred Mile From Idaho’s Mountains to the Pacific Ocean published by the University of Nebraska Press. Mike is a writer and journalist who has worked as a reporter for the Yakima Herald-Republic and the Idaho Falls Post Register. He has taught English and creative writing at various colleges. His essays have appeared in such journals as River Teeth, Ascent, and ISLE.
Angie Sarich is a thoughtful and articulate writer with genuine curiosity and insight about the intersections of the individual life and history. Her mind is lively, wonderfully adhesive and searching, and it’s as delightful to follow its contemplations as it is to experience its recollections. Leaving Parma recounts a compelling story of her family’s losses and her own growing consciousness, but all the while it also quietly makes its convincing case that the losses, affections, stories and truths that we consider so singular, so defining of our individualities, are in fact the very fiber from which history weaves itself through generations. Even in her consideration of how she came to write this book itself, Sarich speaks with a voice both distinctively her own and profoundly useful to others—writers and readers alike.
Jonathan Johnson’s second collection of poems, In the Land We Imagined Ourselves, was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2010. His first collection, Mastodon, 80% Complete, was published in 2001 by Carnegie Mellon. His poems have appeared in Best American Poetry and numerous other anthologies, as well as recent issues of Southern Review, Ploughshares, North American Review, and Prairie Schooner. Johnson is also the author of a memoir, Hannah and the Mountain: Notes Toward a Wilderness Fatherhood, which was published in 2005 by the University of Nebraska Press in their American Lives Series. He is a professor at the Inland Northwest Center for Writers, the MFA program at Eastern Washington University. Johnson spends as much time as he can in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and at the secluded, log cabin he and his wife built on the Johnson Family Farm in northern Idaho.
Leaving Parma is more than a memoir of Angie Sarich’s experience; it is also an exploration of how one locates meaning. Under her attention, words almost become physical objects. They are tried for heft and shape, placed carefully. The result fits naturally into our hands, like the tools picked up by the men of her family, or another hand joining ours in prayer: something that helps us make sense of the legacy of loss into which we are born.
Bethany Schultz Hurst
Bethany Schultz Hurst’s poems appear in or are forthcoming in journals such the Gettysburg Review, Rattle, Smartish Pace, RHINO, and Cream City Review. She teaches writing and literature at Idaho State University. Angie Sarich’s book, Leaving Parma, is beautiful story of one woman’s search for meaning through the death of an uncle. It’s a book of trying to find a place in your heart to start from. Leaving Parma is told in a spare, repeating and visceral style that reminds one of the voices of Vonnegut and Carver. This book showed me how a sense of place can eat at us, and how we’re not truly healed until we have that resolved.
Scott Poole is the house poet for Live Wire!, a weekly radio variety show on Oregon Public Broadcasting that airs throughout the Pacific Northwest and is currently expanding to Public Broadcasting stations across the U.S. in cities such as Boston and Cleveland. He also was a founding director of Get Lit!, the Spokane, Washington, book festival, and Wordstock, the Portland, Oregon, book festival. Currently, he is a software developer and lives in Vancouver, Washington. He is the author of three books of poetry, The Cheap Seats, Hiding from Salesmen, and The Sliding Glass Door.
The most substantive memoirists are able to project their voices into the future and, thus, to speak as the calmer and more insightful selves they will one day become. Leaving Parma is characterized by such a consciousness, affording the text a combination of verve and gravity too rarely found in contemporary nonfiction.
Natalie Kusz is the author of the memoir Road Song and has published essays in Harper’s, Threepenny Review, McCall’s, Real Simple, and other periodicals. Her work has earned, among other honors, a Whiting Writer’s Award, a Pushcart Prize, and fellowships from the NEA, the Bush Foundation, and the Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College. A former faculty member of Bethel College and of Harvard University, she now teaches in the MFA program at Eastern Washington University.
Leaving Parma, in the words of its author, Angie Sarich, is a book of beginnings, but implicit in every beginning is an end: a completion, a summit toward which this writer climbs. Amidst the stories of the death of her uncle in the Vietnam War, her battle with Graves’ Disease, her parents’ divorce, her journey to becoming a writer, and other familial relationships, Sarich’s memoir seeks the answer to humanity’s age old questions “Who am I?” and “What does it all mean?”. Through richly crafted language and reflection, Sarich pulls apart the pieces that have become her life and attempts to find meaning in them, but like any wading through memory, what she finds is that when the pieces are put back together, they no longer make the same whole. As she strives to reconcile this new whole, she finds a friendship that creates a new lens through which she must look. It is a lens readers will find worth looking through because it seeks to show us how rare and precious relationships among humans are; they are what give life its meaning. Only a lover of words, one who “talks to paper,” can make this concrete. This memoir allows readers to feel what it is to be alive, all those hills and valleys our stones roll down and are pushed through. Sarich states in her epilogue that this will be her last, her only book. I cannot help but feel how sad a statement this is and how Sarich needs to keep talking to paper so that others can also take part in the conversation.
Jen Reid currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with her husband, Dan, and basset hound, Higgins. She works as Communications Director for Student Affairs at Marquette University as well as teaches rhetoric and composition. She got her start in editing and design at Eastern Washington University Press, where she worked for four years. She received her MFA in creative writing from the Inland Northwest Center for Writers in 2002. Her writing has appeared in Lit Rag, Knock, Redactions, Willow Springs, and most recently Town Creek, among others. She has been twice nominated for a Pushcart.
In the spirit of Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It, Angie Sarich opens her memoir, Leaving Parma, by stating that she is haunted by beginnings. And it is through her examination of these beginnings that she comes to better understand her family, her home town, and herself. Ernest Hemingway and Norman Maclean are just two of the many writers whose works Sarich beautifully weaves into her thorough exploration of the death of her uncle in Vietnam, as well as other familial events, discovering how they all contribute to her own identity. I truly enjoyed and highly recommend Leaving Parma.
Dan Morris holds the PhD in English and creative writing from the University of Southern Mississippi and currently teaches writing and literature at Auburn University. A chapbook of his poetry, Following the Day, was published by Pudding House in 2007. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as Xavier Review, Rock and Sling, California Quarterly, Poetry South, StringTown, and Red Rock Review. He is the senior editor for Town Creek Poetry.
Leaving Parma is Angie Sarich’s memoir charting her desire to come to peace with her family’s past symbolized by Parma, Idaho—to essentially let the town she came from die inside, to let her family’s wounds rest in peace. At its core, the memoir is a young woman’s investigation into the weighty silence surrounding the individuals that comprise her close-knit, rural family, and about how their emotional traumas caused by the loss of a loved one in the Vietnam War have unwittingly affected her.
Prompted by the recent divorce of her parents, Sarich comes to the page first and foremost to understand more about the death of her young uncle Craig in Vietnam and how his death has overshadowed her and her family’s lives. The result is an expedition that leads Sarich and the reader through a history of the Vietnam war, through her mother’s and grandparents’ internal landscapes, and across her own battlefield of Graves’ disease. Often, Sarich’s quest for meaning becomes scientific in its investigative process and grand in its scope.
One of the most satisfying elements of Leaving Parma is Sarich’s voice, which balances inquisitive urgency with unhurried meditation and humor to arrive at insights that if they don’t ring true at first, will. “In Idaho, perfect corn is more important than perfect children,” she writes, reflecting on the use of pesticides and their possible role in her development of Graves’ disease. The book is full of such lines that strike like a snake or haunt Sarich’s questions and ideas like thunder.
Reading Leaving Parma is to rediscover the universal pleasures of love beneath one family’s burden of suffering. It will make you reconsider the purpose of our current wars in the Middle East, and remind you of the importance of family, memory, home, and prayer in each of our private lives and cultural identities.
Michelle Bonczek is an Assistant Professor of English at Lebanon Valley College where she teaches poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and American literature. She holds a PhD from Western Michigan University, an MFA from Eastern Washington University, and an MA from SUNY Brockport. Her poetry has appeared in many journals and magazines, including Crazyhorse, Cream City Review, Green Mountains Review, Margie, Orion, The Progressive,and Water~Stone Review.