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- Garrison Keillor
"MJ Andersen's memoir brings to life a kind of small-town America that is our national dream, even as it meditates on the endless disavowing of home that is our national lot. Spare, witty, poignant, brave and never sentimental, it's a book you can dive into and find yourself."
- Elizabeth Kendall, author of American Daughter and The Runaway Bride
"Portable Prairie is an uncommon memoir, a luminous account of one woman's intellectual flowering in the Plains States and beyond, and a deeply moving and intelligent meditation on the essential human experience of home. Andersen writes about places, people, objects, and ideas and reveals how hopelessly and beautifully they are bound together. This is not a confessional book, and those details she selects (and what a treasure they are) are precisely the sort which stimulate in us our own poignant recollections. This is the sort of book one presses on friends and interesting strangers. This is the American story made fresh."
- Jincy Willett, author of Winner of the National Book Award
"M.J. Andersen's memoir, Portable Prairie, unfurls in a finished tone-straightforward, uncluttered, headlong, with a wry smile-in its contemplation on the meaning of "home" worthy of Bachelard. The identifying trait of this memoir among others is its ability to lift you into a sudden dimensional moment-where was I? you wonder-then set you back inside the pacing of its gentle, assured voice. Andersen is a visionary of the lives lived in the realm we too often self-confidently call home. Andersen causes us to readjust our focus, as Willa Cather and Wright Morris do."
- Larry Woiwode, author of What I Think I Did
|On the Range||83|
|The Shore of Lake Michigan||219|
Andersen introduces us to her hardworking newspaper family, which produces one of Plainville's two competing weeklies; to Job's Daughters, a Christian association intended to prepare young women for adversity (Plainville's chapter assumes the added responsibility of throwing the town's best teen dances); and even to a local variety of hardy alfalfa, to which her best friend has a surprising kinship.
Leaving behind her physical home, Andersen travels East for college, remaining to begin a journalism career. With her husband she eventually settles into her first house, a beautiful Victorian that, though loved, somehow does not feel like home in the way she had anticipated. Through subsequent travels, memories, and a meditation on Tolstoy's complex relationship to his ancestral home, she arrives at a new idea of what home is — one that should resonate with every American who has ever had to pull up stakes.
Posted March 24, 2005