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The Blessing: A Memoir

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"The inadvertent shooting death of his brother by poet Orr gives this memoir a god-awful specific gravity and spurs the author's search for ways to live on…Here, the old and new meanings of 'blessing' - to sprinkle with blood, to confer spiritual power - harrowingly collide." - Kirkus Review "The inadvertent shooting death of his brother by poet Orr gives this memoir a god-awful specific gravity and spurs the author's search for ways to live on…Here, the old and new meanings of 'blessing' - to sprinkle with blood, to confer spiritual power - harrowingly collide." - Kirkus Review


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"The inadvertent shooting death of his brother by poet Orr gives this memoir a god-awful specific gravity and spurs the author's search for ways to live on…Here, the old and new meanings of 'blessing' - to sprinkle with blood, to confer spiritual power - harrowingly collide." - Kirkus Review "The inadvertent shooting death of his brother by poet Orr gives this memoir a god-awful specific gravity and spurs the author's search for ways to live on…Here, the old and new meanings of 'blessing' - to sprinkle with blood, to confer spiritual power - harrowingly collide." - Kirkus Review

30 review for The Blessing: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jenni Simmons

    I once read that memoirs are testimonies of survival, or something to that effect. If the author can live through that, we can survive our sufferings, too. And so, I can't help but think of my favorite memoirs as gifts, as blessings. At Glen Workshop East in South Hadley, MA, this summer, I perused the delicious tables of books set up by Warren Farha of Eighth Day Books. I asked what he recommended and he named this book. "Gregory Orr is a beautiful man," he said. "His memoir is excellent, and i I once read that memoirs are testimonies of survival, or something to that effect. If the author can live through that, we can survive our sufferings, too. And so, I can't help but think of my favorite memoirs as gifts, as blessings. At Glen Workshop East in South Hadley, MA, this summer, I perused the delicious tables of books set up by Warren Farha of Eighth Day Books. I asked what he recommended and he named this book. "Gregory Orr is a beautiful man," he said. "His memoir is excellent, and it is harrowing. I finished reading it in two days." If you know Warren, you will read anything he recommends. And after hearing Gregory Orr (also a critically acclaimed poet) speak at the Glen Workshop, I was astounded by his grace, his gentleness, his humor, his strength. His memoir is harrowing because his past was harrowing. But thanks to a friend, poetry, and art, he can recall the chaos of his life as "the blessing." I'm beginning to think that poets write some of the best memoirs. Read this one and see if you agree.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Debbie

    This powerful memoir falls into the category of surviving childhood with crazy parents, making me think of Tara Westover's Educated or The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. Orr writes with piercing, plain spoken clarity about growing up in a family with a free-wheeling, reckless father and a distant, unreachable mother during the fifties and sixties. His defining moment happened as a 12-year old when his father took his four young sons hunting. A horrible accident left his younger brother dead, an This powerful memoir falls into the category of surviving childhood with crazy parents, making me think of Tara Westover's Educated or The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls. Orr writes with piercing, plain spoken clarity about growing up in a family with a free-wheeling, reckless father and a distant, unreachable mother during the fifties and sixties. His defining moment happened as a 12-year old when his father took his four young sons hunting. A horrible accident left his younger brother dead, and the author feeling like Cain who had killed his brother. Pain and existing dysfunction enveloped the family leaving them unable to talk about their loss or reach out to one another with compassion and forgiveness. Here he tells the reader how he came out on the other side of his grief and guilt to eventually live with joy. Writing poetry became his vehicle of expression and healing.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kara

    Beautifully written, tragic, fascinating. In addition to the tragedy at the book's core, this story includes compelling glimpses into the author's time living in Haiti as a boy and being arrested as a teenager volunteering with the Civil Rights movement in the South. My only criticism is that I wish it had been about 50 pages longer and allowed us to better glimpse the arc of the author's movement toward healing. Beautifully written, tragic, fascinating. In addition to the tragedy at the book's core, this story includes compelling glimpses into the author's time living in Haiti as a boy and being arrested as a teenager volunteering with the Civil Rights movement in the South. My only criticism is that I wish it had been about 50 pages longer and allowed us to better glimpse the arc of the author's movement toward healing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lanette Sweeney

    There is no doubt this memoir is gorgeously and poetically composed, so I know I am in the minority here, but I had some issues with it. Even though Orr was a child when he accidentally shot and killed his little brother, he seems to take no responsibility for the way he shot backward and blindly over his shoulder when he had been trained to take more safety measures before firing the gun. From there, I feel his poetic language obscures a deeper examination of his actual feelings. I did apprecia There is no doubt this memoir is gorgeously and poetically composed, so I know I am in the minority here, but I had some issues with it. Even though Orr was a child when he accidentally shot and killed his little brother, he seems to take no responsibility for the way he shot backward and blindly over his shoulder when he had been trained to take more safety measures before firing the gun. From there, I feel his poetic language obscures a deeper examination of his actual feelings. I did appreciate the passages in which he wished to be held and soothed, wished someone could talk to him about what had happened; the silence that falls over the family and then the other events that seem to happen out of nowhere are presented in a way that captures well a child's confusion as events beyond his control swirl around him. However, as a mom who lost her son, I didn’t feel he ever convinced me that his brother's death was in any way a blessing. Poor kid(s).

  5. 5 out of 5

    Angie

    Heartrending. Orr is a poet: the writing in his memoir is beautiful. He artfully weaves references to mythology which lends to his story an epic quality--Orr and his father each taking turns at being the tragic hero. I loved the beginning for its language and the characterization of his parents. I thought the pacing was strange in the section about his teenage/college years--maybe this was deliberate: a sort of metaphor for those years (?). I wish that he would have spent more time reflecting on Heartrending. Orr is a poet: the writing in his memoir is beautiful. He artfully weaves references to mythology which lends to his story an epic quality--Orr and his father each taking turns at being the tragic hero. I loved the beginning for its language and the characterization of his parents. I thought the pacing was strange in the section about his teenage/college years--maybe this was deliberate: a sort of metaphor for those years (?). I wish that he would have spent more time reflecting on how the horrible accident and sad details of his childhood shaped him as an adult. Like other reviewers, I wish he would have written more about his siblings. However, this would all be outside of the scope of his tightly, but beautifully wound narrative.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    In THE BLESSING, Gregory Orr's younger self struggles with guilt caused by the accidental death of his brother. But this alone frames the story too simply. Orr reveals a life transformed by internal monologue and mythology, with the intent of evaluating his position in the universe. Orr is most well known for his poetry and this memoir reads with a deliberate eye on pacing and structural efficiency. Reading THE BLESSING from a poet's perspective, I found Orr's insights into the functions of poet In THE BLESSING, Gregory Orr's younger self struggles with guilt caused by the accidental death of his brother. But this alone frames the story too simply. Orr reveals a life transformed by internal monologue and mythology, with the intent of evaluating his position in the universe. Orr is most well known for his poetry and this memoir reads with a deliberate eye on pacing and structural efficiency. Reading THE BLESSING from a poet's perspective, I found Orr's insights into the functions of poetry especially sharp, and his integration of mythology and heightened metaphor to echo his own range of experiences enviable. THE BLESSING is an expertly crafted memoir, which could act as a gateway into memoir for poets or other writers who may be otherwise inexperienced in the genre.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Murphy

    I had the privilege of working with Greg at a writer's conference, and his careful kindness comes through in life as it does in his writing. I especially appreciate how he is able to reflect on how the accident affected all aspects of his life--how he carries it with him in his daily life. Most of us live with a moment like that in our pockets. Greg describes it in a careful, insightful way. I had the privilege of working with Greg at a writer's conference, and his careful kindness comes through in life as it does in his writing. I especially appreciate how he is able to reflect on how the accident affected all aspects of his life--how he carries it with him in his daily life. Most of us live with a moment like that in our pockets. Greg describes it in a careful, insightful way.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Anne

    A powerful personal family story about the long arc to overcoming serious loss. Vibrant characters with complex dynamics and the beautiful writing you would expect from such a talented poet.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Hagan

    At age twelve, Gregory Orr kills his younger brother in a deer hunting accident. His life is shattered through shame, loss, and grief. Though his father is a country doctor, he' reckless, flamboyant, drives expensive race cars, pops amphetamines, and keeps a young girlfriend on the side. Orr doesn't receive counseling after the accident. His parents don't talk about it. The horror and tragedy of that day remains bottled inside, as young Orr views himself as the Biblical Cain who slays his younge At age twelve, Gregory Orr kills his younger brother in a deer hunting accident. His life is shattered through shame, loss, and grief. Though his father is a country doctor, he' reckless, flamboyant, drives expensive race cars, pops amphetamines, and keeps a young girlfriend on the side. Orr doesn't receive counseling after the accident. His parents don't talk about it. The horror and tragedy of that day remains bottled inside, as young Orr views himself as the Biblical Cain who slays his younger brother Able. The title "The Blessing" makes this appear to be a spiritual book, which it is, but not in a Biblical sense. It's a story of Orr's struggle through family difficulties, including a move to Haiti, and trying to redeem himself later in life by going to the South, becoming a civil rights activist, where he is kidnapped and nearly killed. When that redemption proves to be a failure too, Orr sees his only escape appears as suicide. When he's reached his lowest, he finally discovers himself. This is a beautiful book, lyrical and deeply moving. Through metaphors and poetry, Orr shows the power of the human spirit to overcome even the worst tragedy one might face, accidentally killing one's younger sibling and having to live with that guilt. It's a beautifully written, powerful book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    This is a powerful and painful story to read of the author's life. When he was 12 years old, he accidentally shot and killed his younger brother in a hunting accident. He tells us how that horrible tragedy forever changed his life and the lives of his parents and siblings. Gregory's parents had a colourful and untraditional relationship with each other and with their children. His mother was distant and unreachable. It broke my heart to hear him say how much he needed to be held, hugged and comfo This is a powerful and painful story to read of the author's life. When he was 12 years old, he accidentally shot and killed his younger brother in a hunting accident. He tells us how that horrible tragedy forever changed his life and the lives of his parents and siblings. Gregory's parents had a colourful and untraditional relationship with each other and with their children. His mother was distant and unreachable. It broke my heart to hear him say how much he needed to be held, hugged and comforted after the hunting accident and his mother was not able to do any of this. His parents seemed to be irresponsible and restless, although it was evident that they did care for their children. His father had grandiose ideas that sent them moving to different places, including a year in Haiti where his mother died mysteriously in the hospital. Gregory got involved with the Civil Righrs movement in the South and experienced serious trauma including being kidnapped and spending time in a sinister jail. But always, the guilt of his brothers death followed him and haunted him until he eventually discovered a healing power through art and especially through writing poetry. A very compelling life story.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Garrison

    Last year I learned of Gregory Orr through his book on reading and writing poetry. I enjoyed it so, that I picked up one of his many books of poetry. Still intrigued, I checked out this memoir. Orr tells the story of his first eighteen years through a series of short vignettes. The chapters tend to be short, some only a few hundred words. Through the telling of these stories, the author gradually reveals what drew him into art and especially poetry. Reading the story of his young life, I found m Last year I learned of Gregory Orr through his book on reading and writing poetry. I enjoyed it so, that I picked up one of his many books of poetry. Still intrigued, I checked out this memoir. Orr tells the story of his first eighteen years through a series of short vignettes. The chapters tend to be short, some only a few hundred words. Through the telling of these stories, the author gradually reveals what drew him into art and especially poetry. Reading the story of his young life, I found myself amazed that he survived. When the author was 12, he accidently shot and killed his younger brother in a hunting accident. We later learn (as he later learned), his father had also accidently killed a friend after they had “borrowed” a 22 rifle and was using it to “skeet shoot” paper plates. Obviously, such trauma continues to influence the author. But there were more bumps along the road. His father, a physician, supposedly to save the family, took them all to Haiti in the early 60s. There, he worked in a clinic where, following a simple surgery, his mother died of an infection. Afterwards, his father married a much younger woman to whom he had had an affair before moving to Haiti. His father, who seemed to be a devoted doctor who worked ungodly hours in rural New York, lived on amphetamines. He even gave an industrial size jar of such tablets to his son when he dropped him off at college. The memoir ends after Orr’s first year of college, when he headed South as part of the Freedom Riders who worked for Civil Rights. He was young and naïve and twice found himself in a dangerous situation which required his rescue by his father’s friend, an attorney. It doesn’t appear Orr and his family were very religious. Orr recalls they occasionally attended a Dutch Reformed Church. However, this book is steeped in Biblical metaphors, especially around the accidental death of his brother. Orr sees himself as Cain, who after killing his brother Abel is protected by God. He too feels protected (even the investigating officer said it was an accident and doesn’t handcuff him). But he also feels guilty and unable to deal with the guilt. Later, as he writes this book, he learns of the guilt his brother had over the killing. His brother had not prepared for a test and prayed there would be a way he could avoid taking it. He, too, carried guilt, as he found the answer to his prayer (not having to take the test that day) to be horrific. As a memoir, this book doesn’t contain everything about the author’s early life. While he mentions becoming involved with the Civil Rights movement, I found myself looking for a stronger link as to why he decided to spend a summer in Mississippi and Alabama. However, that doesn’t distract much from what I consider an excellent memoir. This is a fast book to read. I started it one night and finished it the next afternoon. I do recommend this book and before I preach on Genesis 4 again (the story of Cain and Abel), I will reread much of this book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shaun Deane

    A difficult one to rate. The number is not meaningful in this case. A few years before I started writing my own book, I wrote to Greg Orr, as someone had given me one of his poems and it struck a chord. Kindly, he replied and was encouraging about my writing. Now, having read this memoir, I will contact him again, and, send him my own. Because of the nature of trauma, there are connection points in our two unrelated books. There are many moments and feelings that he described that are oh so fami A difficult one to rate. The number is not meaningful in this case. A few years before I started writing my own book, I wrote to Greg Orr, as someone had given me one of his poems and it struck a chord. Kindly, he replied and was encouraging about my writing. Now, having read this memoir, I will contact him again, and, send him my own. Because of the nature of trauma, there are connection points in our two unrelated books. There are many moments and feelings that he described that are oh so familiar.

  13. 5 out of 5

    AJ Nolan

    A beautiful memoir of his youth, especially of six traumatic years from when he accidentally killed his younger brother, Peter, at the age of 12, up to when he was 18 and was beaten and traumatized by the police in the South while volunteering during the summer for the Civil Rights Movement. Don't worry, these aren't spoilers. The memoir isn't so much about what happened to him, but about the internal journey within. A beautiful memoir of his youth, especially of six traumatic years from when he accidentally killed his younger brother, Peter, at the age of 12, up to when he was 18 and was beaten and traumatized by the police in the South while volunteering during the summer for the Civil Rights Movement. Don't worry, these aren't spoilers. The memoir isn't so much about what happened to him, but about the internal journey within.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Beatriz

    there's no better word to describe this book than "haunting". life after a traumatic can be incredibly lonely and painful and orr captures it in such a raw, melancholic way. i'm really glad i got the chance to read his memoir. there's no better word to describe this book than "haunting". life after a traumatic can be incredibly lonely and painful and orr captures it in such a raw, melancholic way. i'm really glad i got the chance to read his memoir.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    What do you make of tragedy and trauma? This is an incredibly beautifully written book. I frequently wonder how to redeem my past and make my life about more than my trauma. This book gives me one example. Beautifully written and will be one of my favorite books this year.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Erika Sanders

    Orr's descriptions of grief and trauma, experienced as a child, were profoundly recognizable to me. A beautiful and concise memoir of a 6-year period in the author's life. Orr's descriptions of grief and trauma, experienced as a child, were profoundly recognizable to me. A beautiful and concise memoir of a 6-year period in the author's life.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    Orr survived more in his first 20 years of life than you can even imagine. A beautifully told memoir.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lucinda Porter

    Truly a Blessing Books can bless.I have just discovered Gregory Orr, and am hoping he lives a long life with much more poetry and prose.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Flor

    This was a tough read, for its content, but I wouldn't miss it if you are an Orr reader. This was a tough read, for its content, but I wouldn't miss it if you are an Orr reader.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Tara T. Boyce

    Beautiful commentary on the saving grace of art. How it heals us from the grief and trauma and indifference of the world. How it helps us create or cultivate or interpret meaning out of life. Some favorite excerpts: “‘In my beginning was my end.’ But ‘end’ is also purpose, your essential intention in life—that aim toward which you direct your energies and talents. I didn’t die in Hayneville, and my beginning in trauma and violence led me on to a lifetime of creation rather than destruction.” “I c Beautiful commentary on the saving grace of art. How it heals us from the grief and trauma and indifference of the world. How it helps us create or cultivate or interpret meaning out of life. Some favorite excerpts: “‘In my beginning was my end.’ But ‘end’ is also purpose, your essential intention in life—that aim toward which you direct your energies and talents. I didn’t die in Hayneville, and my beginning in trauma and violence led me on to a lifetime of creation rather than destruction.” “I could choose instead the artist’s kind of death that is part of being reborn a hundredfold.” “Here in this field, arrayed in long lines, was an army of art. This army was engaged in a war against the nothingness and indifference of the universe.”

  21. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    First of all, I must get my hormones out of the way before I can say anything intelligent: Doesn't this young picture of Gregory Orr remind you of Orlando Bloom??? ~Or-lando Blooooom~just the name makes me light-headed. Alas, I feel intelligent again. The Blessing is a phenomenal memoir about Orr's childhood (Orr shot his brother to death during a hunting accident when he was 12), his adolescence (partly spent in Haiti where his mother suddenly died), and his early adulthood (when he was imprisone First of all, I must get my hormones out of the way before I can say anything intelligent: Doesn't this young picture of Gregory Orr remind you of Orlando Bloom??? ~Or-lando Blooooom~just the name makes me light-headed. Alas, I feel intelligent again. The Blessing is a phenomenal memoir about Orr's childhood (Orr shot his brother to death during a hunting accident when he was 12), his adolescence (partly spent in Haiti where his mother suddenly died), and his early adulthood (when he was imprisoned in the South TWICE for being a participant in civil rights protests). As interesting and unique as his life experience is, what really makes this memoir most successful his poetic language, meditative reflections, fresh analogies, and unflinching ability to recreate emotion. And beyond all the craft is one of the most honest messages I've come across in my memoir reading: that life is a blessing. This was a perfect read for me to see that others waver in their faith in humanity but still push on because there really is always much more beauty than we sometimes are able to see. Orr didn't beat this message into my brain and he didn't come to it as some big-fake-f***ing realization. He wrote about it as part of his growth as a human being and artist in a very honest and humble way. Favorite passage: "This was poetry, not poems. Poems are discrete artifacts of language that prove someone's imagination and linguistic gifts have triumphed over disorder in a definitive, shaped way. What I held onto then was not poems, but the idea of poetry--which I had to follow for years before I emerged into the light, before I could let go of the thread for a moment and sit down to write my first poem" (144-145). I adore this book. And I imagine if I ate it, it would be one very tasty morsel. An impressive 4 1/2 out of five very-hard-to-get Hello Kittys.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Belle

    Gregory Orr will forever be one of my literary role-models. His story reminds me of the power of language to heal, the power of language as equipment for living. In a lot of ways, language provides a double space, a magical space in which to deal with trauma, emotion, or otherwise difficult and profound experiences. In short, language creates a space for meaning. What a gift Orr, his life, and his use of language are to the world. I am convinced he has made the world a little better with his word Gregory Orr will forever be one of my literary role-models. His story reminds me of the power of language to heal, the power of language as equipment for living. In a lot of ways, language provides a double space, a magical space in which to deal with trauma, emotion, or otherwise difficult and profound experiences. In short, language creates a space for meaning. What a gift Orr, his life, and his use of language are to the world. I am convinced he has made the world a little better with his words, for certainly he has done that for my little world. I’m thankful to have met him in person, he’s had a profound influence on my own literary journey.

  23. 5 out of 5

    courtney

    the first third or half or so of this book powerfully and effectively uses memoir to establish gregory orr as a person for whom meaning is essential. his personal history is fascinating, and i would love to have him as a dinner guest, but the second third or third quarter or whatever kind of meanders. his family's voyage in haiti and his work with the sncc are essential components to his development as a writer, but we are given the slideshow presentation. it feels truncated and disjointed. the the first third or half or so of this book powerfully and effectively uses memoir to establish gregory orr as a person for whom meaning is essential. his personal history is fascinating, and i would love to have him as a dinner guest, but the second third or third quarter or whatever kind of meanders. his family's voyage in haiti and his work with the sncc are essential components to his development as a writer, but we are given the slideshow presentation. it feels truncated and disjointed. the final chapter (and chapters are very short here, we are talking 3-7 pages) reaches back and pulls the thread of meaning through the text and leaves us with a kind of near-catharsis. not quite enough to satisfy, but enough to make sense of the book. i almost feel like this should have been 3 books. orr's beautifully descriptive prose could have sustained my interest, especially if he gave each event its due. the pain of responsibility for his brother's death and his family's inability to address or cope with it dominate the most powerful parts of this book. i wish the loss of his mother in haiti (and his family's return to new york) and his imprisonment in the segregated south (and the bizarre welcome he received in his home and hometown) had been as fully realized in this memoir.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    Gregory Orr writes a memoir that begins with his accidental shooting of his brother (and his brother's death). It explores the rest of his life from there--that crucial event--and how his family continued to spiral down hill after his brother's loss. But it also points up the ways that a tragic event can figure into a life, led him to the Civil Rights movement (briefly) and to his love of poetry (his on-going work). It's beautifully written, and the fragmentation of some of the earlier events re Gregory Orr writes a memoir that begins with his accidental shooting of his brother (and his brother's death). It explores the rest of his life from there--that crucial event--and how his family continued to spiral down hill after his brother's loss. But it also points up the ways that a tragic event can figure into a life, led him to the Civil Rights movement (briefly) and to his love of poetry (his on-going work). It's beautifully written, and the fragmentation of some of the earlier events replicate the fragmentation one encounters after tragedy. A quote: Violent trauma shreds the web of meaning. It destroys all the threads of relationship that link the hurt self to the world—to other people and objects, or to nature, or even to the inner world of its own feelings. The real task of the trauma victim—the task that makes life worth living again—is to reconnect the self to the world. To do that, you need to reweave the web, to risk the spinning of new threads until they form a sustaining pattern the self can inhabit. It's a very excellent book and worth thinking about as an example of writing the unspeakable.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    I just finished reading this after meeting Gregory Orr for the first time at the Palm Beach Poetry festival this past January. It's a hard juxtaposition because I saw him as pretty genial, a great dancer when the music started with his wife, and this book is really about the darker pivotal moments in his life. Aside from his brother's death the more bleak/haunting descriptions are about his civil rights movement experiences. Further away from the 1960s we forget the chances people took in protest I just finished reading this after meeting Gregory Orr for the first time at the Palm Beach Poetry festival this past January. It's a hard juxtaposition because I saw him as pretty genial, a great dancer when the music started with his wife, and this book is really about the darker pivotal moments in his life. Aside from his brother's death the more bleak/haunting descriptions are about his civil rights movement experiences. Further away from the 1960s we forget the chances people took in protesting for racial equality, imprisonment without due process, etc. Orr fortunately was white and had told enough people where he was going, that he escaped that kind of anonymous violence/confinement but he had enough of a taste of it to give the reader chills. He's a poet, so this prose book must end on an image and I don't want to spoil it for you. But I'd say the images at the end are perfectly unexpected and for that reason, ring completely true.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Wow. I loved this book. This is one of the best books I’ve read in years. This book is a memoir by a poet. His life is certainly dramatic enough. As a child, he accidentally shoots and kills his younger brother while out hunting with the family. For awhile his family lives in Haiti (his father is a physician who decides to work there) - while there Orr’s mother has surgery and dies. Later as a college student he participates in the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi - the summer after the Free Wow. I loved this book. This is one of the best books I’ve read in years. This book is a memoir by a poet. His life is certainly dramatic enough. As a child, he accidentally shoots and kills his younger brother while out hunting with the family. For awhile his family lives in Haiti (his father is a physician who decides to work there) - while there Orr’s mother has surgery and dies. Later as a college student he participates in the Civil Rights movement in Mississippi - the summer after the Freedom Summer - and is arrested and beaten more than once. It’s not the drama of the stories that caused me to love this book so much - it is the writing - it is the clarity - it is the beauty and insight that rises from these pages. Wow. I’m very glad I read it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kristen Hoggatt

    He's a poet, meaning that he's consistently concise and descriptive, but on many occasions I wanted him to be more... long-winded (?), I guess. Orr doesn't have the benefit of line breaks in this piece, and as a poet/memoirist myself, I felt that he didn't compensate. But I admit that maybe this is a problem I am quite attuned to in my own writing, so others may not have a problem. I very much enjoyed it, and I appreciated the organization: beginning with a description of the tragedy (the writin He's a poet, meaning that he's consistently concise and descriptive, but on many occasions I wanted him to be more... long-winded (?), I guess. Orr doesn't have the benefit of line breaks in this piece, and as a poet/memoirist myself, I felt that he didn't compensate. But I admit that maybe this is a problem I am quite attuned to in my own writing, so others may not have a problem. I very much enjoyed it, and I appreciated the organization: beginning with a description of the tragedy (the writing style much like the brief, sudden shock that it was), then realizing ways to overcome that tragedy. The book doesn't lack anything, but it moves a lot quicker than most memoirs.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Mark Hiser

    I seldom read memoirs. I, however, am glad that, for some reason, I decided to read this one. The poet, Gregory Orr, when a young child, killed his brother in a hunting accident. Living in an emotionally repressed family, Orr had no opportunity to release himself from the horror and shame of the killing. This memoir, then explores a man's search for meaning and light in a place of meaninglessness and darkness. At times the book was so raw that I felt I was inside the author's heart. Even so, I co I seldom read memoirs. I, however, am glad that, for some reason, I decided to read this one. The poet, Gregory Orr, when a young child, killed his brother in a hunting accident. Living in an emotionally repressed family, Orr had no opportunity to release himself from the horror and shame of the killing. This memoir, then explores a man's search for meaning and light in a place of meaninglessness and darkness. At times the book was so raw that I felt I was inside the author's heart. Even so, I could not stop reading because of the beauty of the language. For it was language--and poetry--that save Gregory Orr. I highly recommend this powerful memoir.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Margie

    The book began strong, memorably. I re-read the first several chapters for their spare but distinct wording and imagery. But the book failed to deliver on the blessing of Orr's suffering through childhood and adolescence at the hands of his distant mother and irresponsible father. I ended the book with more questions than answers about his later life, his siblings, what The Blessing was for him, and - I hope - them. I suspect these questions are answered in his poems, but I haven't read any to k The book began strong, memorably. I re-read the first several chapters for their spare but distinct wording and imagery. But the book failed to deliver on the blessing of Orr's suffering through childhood and adolescence at the hands of his distant mother and irresponsible father. I ended the book with more questions than answers about his later life, his siblings, what The Blessing was for him, and - I hope - them. I suspect these questions are answered in his poems, but I haven't read any to know. Wish I did.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Leonard

    This is an autobiographical account of the poet Gregory Orr's life especially focusing on the definitive experience in his life, and that was the firearm accident in which he (at the age of 12) accidently shot and killed his 8-year-old brother, Peter. It's a heart-rending story, but ultimately triumphant in that Orr finds poetry which saved his life by lifting him out of the depressed, and self-accusing state he was in for years after this brother's death. Also revealing in this book is the fami This is an autobiographical account of the poet Gregory Orr's life especially focusing on the definitive experience in his life, and that was the firearm accident in which he (at the age of 12) accidently shot and killed his 8-year-old brother, Peter. It's a heart-rending story, but ultimately triumphant in that Orr finds poetry which saved his life by lifting him out of the depressed, and self-accusing state he was in for years after this brother's death. Also revealing in this book is the family dynamics following the accident. Highly recommended.

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