The prize-winning author of Fire Season returns with the heartrending story of his troubled years before finding solace in the wilderness.
In his debut Fire Season, Philip Connors recounted with lyricism, wisdom, and grace his decade as a fire lookout high above remote New Mexico. Now he tells the story of what made solitude on the mountain so attractive: the years he spent reeling in the wake of a family tragedy.
At the age of twenty-three, Connors was a young man on the make. He'd left behind the Minnesota pig farm on which he'd grown up and the brother with whom he'd never been especially close. He had a magazine job lined up in New York City and a future unfolding exactly as he’d hoped. Then one phone call out of the blue changed everything. All the Wrong Places is a searingly honest account of the aftermath of his brother's shocking death, exploring both the pathos and the unlikely humor of a life unmoored by loss.
Beginning with the otherworldly beauty of a hot-air-balloon ride over the skies of Albuquerque and ending in the wilderness of the American borderlands, this is the story of a man paying tribute to the dead by unconsciously willing himself into all the wrong places, whether at the copy desk of the Wall Street Journal, the gritty streets of Bed-Stuy in the 1990s, or the smoking rubble of the World Trade Center. With ruthless clarity and a keen sense of the absurd, Connors slowly unmasks the truth about his brother and himself, to devastating effect. Like Cheryl Strayed's Wild, this is a powerful look back at wayward years—and a redemptive story about finding one's rightful home in the world.
Family trauma sends a young man drifting through many incongruous settings in this affecting but sometimes aimless memoir. Connors, who recalled his stints as a fire lookout in Fire Season, here revisits the period before he entered the wilderness a time of searching (mostly in vain) for answers to the riddle of his brother's suicide at the age of 22. His path takes him to New York, where he is a fish out of water, working at the Wall Street Journal despite his socialist leanings and living in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, where his white skin makes him an object of baffled wonder in an all-black neighborhood. Emotional connections with other people are fitful: one serious love affair fizzles when his girlfriend suffers a psychotic break and proclaims herself "the female Jesus," and an amateur phone-sex line provides one-night-stands whose tenderness is overshadowed by her broodings about death. Connors's narrative, like his state of mind at the time, feels pulled in many directions: he gives sharply funny observations of the culture at WSJ, soap-boxes against its right-wing editorial line and the Iraq War, and ruminates on yuppie bachelorhood in the big city. Through it all his subtle, evocative prose and depth of feeling carry readers through the eddies of his story.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Philip Connors takes us along with him on his journey as he delves into the circumstances of his brother's suicide. He eloquently joins the lows and the highs together into a yin/yang dichotomy. I kept reading on many nights after promising myself "just one more page". His book has helped me to deal with my own brother's death and for that I am grateful. Loss of a loved on is a universal experience and Connor's book will be there for me when I inevitably experience this loss again.