A Slender Thread: Rediscovering Hope at the Heart of Crisis

A Slender Thread: Rediscovering Hope at the Heart of Crisis

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by Diane Ackerman
     
 

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his astonishing book by the prizewinning, bestselling author of A Natural History of the Senses reveals Ackerman's parallel lives as an observer of the wildlife in her garden and as a telephone crisis counselor. "(Ackerman) brings a luminous and illuminating combination of sensuality, science, and speculation to whatever she considers."--San Francisco Examiner.
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Overview

his astonishing book by the prizewinning, bestselling author of A Natural History of the Senses reveals Ackerman's parallel lives as an observer of the wildlife in her garden and as a telephone crisis counselor. "(Ackerman) brings a luminous and illuminating combination of sensuality, science, and speculation to whatever she considers."--San Francisco Examiner.


From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Both a sensuous road map through depression, despair and loss of self, and a homage to the wonder, multiplicity and rejuvenating power of nature, this new book from the author of A Natural History of the Senses is, quite simply, wonderful. Ackerman has worked for years as a counselor at a suicide prevention and crisis center in her hometown in upstate New York. She describes her work as that of a "sorrow ranger." The slender thread of the title refers to the phone wires that reach invisibly between Ackerman and the frightened, hopeless, often desperate person at the other end and to the strength that keeps us going through the hard times. Her writing can charm ("summer is like a new philosophy in the air, and everyone has heard about it"), but it doesn't scant her own despair, making this her most personal book to date. So depressed she forces herself to cross-country ski on her local golf course, Ackerman is pulled back on track by the Canadian geese honking overhead. Thoughts and subjects move and trail into each other here, sometimes through anecdote, sometimes through historical passages, sometimes through densely layered or near stream-of-consciousness prose. From "cutters" (self-mutilators) to the act of bathing, from captive lions to squirrels in her backyard, from a biking trip through the Finger Lakes to a dying Luna moth beside the road, Ackerman leads the reader on a respectful, deeply emotional, life-affirming journey.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Both a sensuous road map through depression, despair and loss of self, and a homage to the wonder, multiplicity and rejuvenating power of nature, this new book from the author of A Natural History of the Senses is, quite simply, wonderful. Ackerman has worked for years as a counselor at a suicide prevention and crisis center in her hometown in upstate New York. She describes her work as that of a "sorrow ranger." The slender thread of the title refers to the phone wires that reach invisibly between Ackerman and the frightened, hopeless, often desperate person at the other end and to the strength that keeps us going through the hard times. Her writing can charm ("summer is like a new philosophy in the air, and everyone has heard about it"), but it doesn't scant her own despair, making this her most personal book to date. So depressed she forces herself to cross-country ski on her local golf course, Ackerman is pulled back on track by the Canadian geese honking overhead. Thoughts and subjects move and trail into each other here, sometimes through anecdote, sometimes through historical passages, sometimes through densely layered or near stream-of-consciousness prose. From "cutters" (self-mutilators) to the act of bathing, from captive lions to squirrels in her backyard, from a biking trip through the Finger Lakes to a dying Luna moth beside the road, Ackerman leads the reader on a respectful, deeply emotional, life-affirming journey. 35,000 first printing; major ad/promo; author tour. (Jan.)
Library Journal
The focus of this lyrical, life-affirming book is the author's stints as a telephone counselor at a suicide prevention center. But it is an intensely interdisciplinary work. Ackerman, a prize-winning poet, author (The Rarest of the Rare, LJ 10/1/95), teacher, and television commentator, deftly interweaves moving stories of battered women, the lonely middle-aged, and suicidal teens with observations of nature by day and human nature in the later hours. There are discussions of the joys of biking and bird-watching, squirrel habits, and the history of bathing. Although the book is grounded in fact and experience, its uniqueness lies in its whimsical associations and stimulating insights. For example, the mechanics of the SSRI class of antidepressants are described in terms of coastal shipping among Renaissance cities. Like a novel, it concludes with stunning tales of actual lives saved by the counselor. Recommended for public libraries, where it will appeal to discerning readers and practitioners in the mental health field.-Antoinette Brinkman, Southwest Indiana Mental Health Ctr. Lib., Evansville
New York Times Book Review
In addition to her literary career, the author volunteers at a suicide-prevention center in a college town in New York State...."Most readers will come away...with a good deal of respect for Diane Ackerman and her fellow volunteer counselors." -- New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
From Ackerman (Rarest of the Rare, 1995, etc.) come these graceful, canny reflections on her hours spent fielding calls at a suicide prevention center.

During "the long corridors of night, when problems can take on monstrous proportions," Ackerman sits in an ordinary room taking all-but-ordinary calls. Her phonemates are people on the raggedy edge, with voices of rising panic, rage, frustration, distant loneliness, but possessed of a precarious, tenuous hope that prompts them to telephone. She isn't a therapist, she isn't there to "[pick] problems apart and [make] sense of their origins and patterns." She is there to search for equilibrium, to be a friend for the duration, to examine options, to find windows and doors in a tunnel. She explores the degree of desperation in a caller's voice (imminent danger of suicide? a depression that may slacken?), knowing that "we hope our callers will choose life, but they have the option and the right to choose death." Nonetheless, she'll alert the police and call for a phone trace if things spin out of control. Ackerman's voracious imagination and curiosity find her making forays into biochemistry and the artistic temperament, the weather and Walt Whitman, bicycling and skiing, bringing them all to bear on her shifts at the crisis center. And it is not surprising that, as a writer of luminous essays on natural history, she is able to convincingly free-associate between the emotional geography of animals (a group of squirrels she is studying for a project) and humans, and compare her telephone work to the long- distance communication of whales, wolves, and birds.

One could do a lot worse than to find Ackerman at the end of the line when feeling those desperately slippery moments of despair, the rush into the unknown.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307763365
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/03/2011
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
605,272
File size:
2 MB

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