Poet, author, and former University of California literature professor Peters (For You, Lili Marlene: A Memoir of World War II, 1995, etc.) provides impressionistic glimpses into his young son's life and death and its impact on him. When Richard (Feather was a nickname coined by his sister) was born, Peters, then a struggling academic constantly moving from one locale to another, and his wife, Jean, were already the parents of two young children. The author illuminates those times with lyrical snapshots of such things as a salamander hunt, a family-run summer school, and the hectic preparations for Thanksgiving dinner. Despite strains in the marriageonly vaguely hinted at herethe Peterses' life is enviable in its innocence. All this was shattered one day in 1960 when Feather returned home from nursery school ill, and swiftly died from a particularly vicious strain of meningitis. Numbness, shock, and horror transfixed the family. But Feather, in a sense, continues to live on for Peters. "In May, 1961," he writes, "I am in my study reading . . . I feel a tap on my shoulder, look up, gaze through a window at a lilac shrub in flamboyant bloom, and there I see Feather smiling at me! His image has ever since remained." Though Peters and his wife had another child, Jefferson, born only a year and seven months after Feather's death, their marriage dissolved, and Peters became involved in homosexual relationships. Writing elegiac poetry about Feather (included here) is one way in which he has dealt with his giref. The memoir closes with a bittersweet scene at Feather's grave, where Peters is joined by Jefferson and his wife.
More poetic than prosaic, this memoir has an uncommon, haunting beauty.