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Little and Often: A Memoir

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Trent Preszler thought he was living the life he always wanted, with a job at a winery and a seaside Long Island home, when he was called back to the life he left behind. After years of estrangement, his cancer-stricken father had invited him to South Dakota for Thanksgiving. It would be the last time he saw his father alive. Preszler’s only inheritance was a beat-up wooden Trent Preszler thought he was living the life he always wanted, with a job at a winery and a seaside Long Island home, when he was called back to the life he left behind. After years of estrangement, his cancer-stricken father had invited him to South Dakota for Thanksgiving. It would be the last time he saw his father alive. Preszler’s only inheritance was a beat-up wooden toolbox that had belonged to his father, who was a cattle rancher, rodeo champion, and Vietnam War Bronze Star Medal recipient. This family heirloom befuddled Preszler. He did not work with his hands—but maybe that was the point. In his grief, he wondered if there was still a way to understand his father, and with that came an epiphany: he would make something with his inheritance. Having no experience or training in woodcraft, driven only by blind will, he decided to build a wooden canoe, and he would aim to paddle it on the first anniversary of his father’s death. While Preszler taught himself how to use his father’s tools, he confronted unexpected revelations about his father’s secret history and his own struggle for self-respect. The grueling challenges of boatbuilding tested his limits, but the canoe became his sole consolation. Gradually, Preszler learned what working with his hands offered: a different per­spective on life, and the means to change it. Little and Often is an unflinching account of bereavement and a stirring reflection on the complexities of inheritance. Between his past and his present, and between America’s heartland and its coasts, Preszler shows how one can achieve reconciliation through the healing power of creativity.


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Trent Preszler thought he was living the life he always wanted, with a job at a winery and a seaside Long Island home, when he was called back to the life he left behind. After years of estrangement, his cancer-stricken father had invited him to South Dakota for Thanksgiving. It would be the last time he saw his father alive. Preszler’s only inheritance was a beat-up wooden Trent Preszler thought he was living the life he always wanted, with a job at a winery and a seaside Long Island home, when he was called back to the life he left behind. After years of estrangement, his cancer-stricken father had invited him to South Dakota for Thanksgiving. It would be the last time he saw his father alive. Preszler’s only inheritance was a beat-up wooden toolbox that had belonged to his father, who was a cattle rancher, rodeo champion, and Vietnam War Bronze Star Medal recipient. This family heirloom befuddled Preszler. He did not work with his hands—but maybe that was the point. In his grief, he wondered if there was still a way to understand his father, and with that came an epiphany: he would make something with his inheritance. Having no experience or training in woodcraft, driven only by blind will, he decided to build a wooden canoe, and he would aim to paddle it on the first anniversary of his father’s death. While Preszler taught himself how to use his father’s tools, he confronted unexpected revelations about his father’s secret history and his own struggle for self-respect. The grueling challenges of boatbuilding tested his limits, but the canoe became his sole consolation. Gradually, Preszler learned what working with his hands offered: a different per­spective on life, and the means to change it. Little and Often is an unflinching account of bereavement and a stirring reflection on the complexities of inheritance. Between his past and his present, and between America’s heartland and its coasts, Preszler shows how one can achieve reconciliation through the healing power of creativity.

30 review for Little and Often: A Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    An exploration of the father-son bond and relationship is the background for Trent Preszler’s “Little and Often: A Memoir” (2021). Preszler’s father was a decorated Vietnam veteran that owned and operated a cattle ranch on the bleak rugged plains of South Dakota. Perhaps he had hoped his only son would inherit the ranch, only to discover this would not be his son’s life plan. Profound sadness and disappointment followed as both men silently struggled to connect with and understand one another. An exploration of the father-son bond and relationship is the background for Trent Preszler’s “Little and Often: A Memoir” (2021). Preszler’s father was a decorated Vietnam veteran that owned and operated a cattle ranch on the bleak rugged plains of South Dakota. Perhaps he had hoped his only son would inherit the ranch, only to discover this would not be his son’s life plan. Profound sadness and disappointment followed as both men silently struggled to connect with and understand one another. As a gay youth, Preszler realized he was different from other boys, and was especially unable to meet the rigorous demands of tough often harsh masculinity expected by his father to operate the ranch. The needs of his adored developmentally disabled sister Lucy added additional strain on their family life. Preszler’s accounts of ranch and cattle work, Faith Livestock cattle auctions, etc. were really interesting, as were his descriptions of living an entirely different life in New York. In his professional life far from South Dakota, as a CEO and founding member of a popular New York winery, Preszler resided in an elegant beach house off the shore of Peconic Bay with is beloved dog Caper. After his father’s death, he turned his living room into “Preszler’s Workshop” and used his inheritated father’s tools to plan, craft, and build a canoe after discarding the irritating commercially made plastic Kayak left behind by his ex after their marriage ended. Preszler observed: “I didn’t need to feel self-conscious ever if the canoe was a sea monster the size and shape of my grief. The canoe, like me, was flawed and temperamental.” There was a lot of symbolism in this emotionally moving storyline. As Preszler worked with his hands, he gained the ability and knowledge to reach deeply within himself and feel the loving impact of his father’s legacy and the world around him. **With thanks to William Morrow and Custom House via NetGalley for the DDC for the purpose of review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    Little and often was the way I read Trent Preszler’s memoir of the same name, an account of how, after his father’s death, Preszler built a canoe with his inheritance—his father’s tools. Reading a few pages each night for a month, I journeyed with Preszler into grief mitigated by the power of memory, loss transformed by the mastery of craft, and a relationship healed after death. The beautifully worded narrative moves seamlessly through time, weaving Preszler’s childhood on a ranch in the Dakota Little and often was the way I read Trent Preszler’s memoir of the same name, an account of how, after his father’s death, Preszler built a canoe with his inheritance—his father’s tools. Reading a few pages each night for a month, I journeyed with Preszler into grief mitigated by the power of memory, loss transformed by the mastery of craft, and a relationship healed after death. The beautifully worded narrative moves seamlessly through time, weaving Preszler’s childhood on a ranch in the Dakotas with his adult life as a New York winemaker living on Long Island. As he recounts his experiences during the course of building the canoe, Preszler’s introspection reveals unexpected connections between these two radically different experiences, shifting his perception of events and self, and enriching his understanding of family relationships, especially his relationship with his father. A rich and satisfying read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sara Rishforth

    I really loved this memoir! I savored every story Preszler told about his childhood and also enjoyed the woodworking. My husband is a woodworker, and he loved that I was reading a book about it. Preszler was honest, interesting, and the kind of person I want to meet. His canoes on his website are absolutely gorgeous, and I'm in awe of his talent. Keep tissues handy! I really loved this memoir! I savored every story Preszler told about his childhood and also enjoyed the woodworking. My husband is a woodworker, and he loved that I was reading a book about it. Preszler was honest, interesting, and the kind of person I want to meet. His canoes on his website are absolutely gorgeous, and I'm in awe of his talent. Keep tissues handy!

  4. 4 out of 5

    TK

    I highly recommend this magnificent memoir. Trent Preszler reconciles his estranged relationship with his father by building a wooden canoe with his father's tools, a perplexing inheritance. Moving back and forth in time, Trent relates memories of his early life to moments spent working on the canoe. In the hands of a lesser writer, and a less thoughtful human, this story could have been one giant cliche, but Trent transcends all of that with his unflagging honesty and strength of character. Whi I highly recommend this magnificent memoir. Trent Preszler reconciles his estranged relationship with his father by building a wooden canoe with his father's tools, a perplexing inheritance. Moving back and forth in time, Trent relates memories of his early life to moments spent working on the canoe. In the hands of a lesser writer, and a less thoughtful human, this story could have been one giant cliche, but Trent transcends all of that with his unflagging honesty and strength of character. While Trent's precise experience as a gay man separated by time and place from his stoic, rancher dad is nothing like mine, I found myself relating to his story nevertheless. And isn't that what turns memoir into something more than an autobiography -- the moments in our specific lives that reveal our common struggles and triumphs? Now I must go google images of Trent's canoe. Read this book!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Seim

    A gorgeously written memoir of love, family, forgiveness. It's ostensibly a book about building a canoe — but it's really about building a new life, hewn from the best parts of the old. The words here are spare and hauntingly beautiful... a book that will stay in your soul. Bring Kleeenex!! A gorgeously written memoir of love, family, forgiveness. It's ostensibly a book about building a canoe — but it's really about building a new life, hewn from the best parts of the old. The words here are spare and hauntingly beautiful... a book that will stay in your soul. Bring Kleeenex!!

  6. 5 out of 5

    A.C. Burch

    Between Two Worlds Trent Preszler has written a memoir with the same loving craftsmanship he brings to his exquisite woodworking projects. The hurt and anger that constrain the book's father and son relationship are deftly revealed in a compelling narrative unflinching in its truth and triumphant in its resolution. Events from Preszler's youth in South Dakota are told in language as plain-spoken as that of his taciturn father, while descriptions of nature are as robust as a fine vintage. Preszl Between Two Worlds Trent Preszler has written a memoir with the same loving craftsmanship he brings to his exquisite woodworking projects. The hurt and anger that constrain the book's father and son relationship are deftly revealed in a compelling narrative unflinching in its truth and triumphant in its resolution. Events from Preszler's youth in South Dakota are told in language as plain-spoken as that of his taciturn father, while descriptions of nature are as robust as a fine vintage. Preszler holds a Ph.D. in Viticulture and is the CEO of a vineyard. Part of the job includes social obligations light years away from his Lutheran upbringing on a ten-thousand-acre cattle ranch. The contrast between the two worlds—neither of which the author finds fulfilling—is masterfully conveyed through clear, focused prose. It was a challenge to decide which world is emptier, the barren, windswept fields of South Dakota or the lavish parties and strained conversations of New York City and The Hamptons. As the saying goes, "the jury is still out on that one." The death of the author's father raises long-standing questions for his only son. The subsequent tale of grief and the healing power of transformative creativity deftly navigates challenges that often hobble father/son narratives. Preszler allows his father room to be understood—even though his brusque nature and rigid beliefs have built what seems like unassailable barriers. A lesser talent would have demonized the rodeo champion and Vietnam vet. Preszler avoids this copout. He delves deep and reveals unflattering details about himself to gain a greater understanding of his father. It would also be easy to snipe at the vineyard's privileged clients and investors. Preszler avoids this trap as well. In this tale of loss and regret, the easy road is seldom taken; a metaphor best expressed when Preszler, clad in a business suit, sloshes along a muddy trail in a downpour to visit one of the most monumental conifers on the planet. Plants and animals are vividly described in Little and Often, while the people are lovingly rendered, their straightforward observations offering hints of the complexity beneath the surface. This generous portrayal gives us a superb opportunity to resonate with the characters' intentions and constraints. In doing this, we learn the many ways a person can show love—and be loved. Sons often rebel against their fathers only to find the same unwanted attributes within themselves. This traumatic discovery can provoke both denial and repudiation, especially when the father can no longer be confronted. Preszler's journey—decluttering his life to build a canoe with his father's tools—ultimately makes sense of the bad and salvages the good. The result of this painstaking effort is a psychic reconciliation that is moving, believable, and enviable. The canoe proves itself a worthy vessel, crafting a new identity for the author that combines the best of his former worlds with a newly minted sense of self. Similarly, Little and Often is a gracefully crafted work that transports its readers to new levels of empathy and understanding.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Great book but did get a little tedious with some of the boat building details; however, the book really resonated with me. If you grew up in what Trent and others identify as Fly Over Country the book easily transports you back home. The descriptions of the huge 8inch in diameter belt buckles, daily ranch life, the phenomenon of what i refer to as the " Stapleton Stare" and the feeling you need a passport to return to where you grew up were 100% accurate. Most likely the book touched me because Great book but did get a little tedious with some of the boat building details; however, the book really resonated with me. If you grew up in what Trent and others identify as Fly Over Country the book easily transports you back home. The descriptions of the huge 8inch in diameter belt buckles, daily ranch life, the phenomenon of what i refer to as the " Stapleton Stare" and the feeling you need a passport to return to where you grew up were 100% accurate. Most likely the book touched me because it was like reading about life in Nebraska. I knew it would be a well written book because of the author's University of Iowa writing program education. This is a fast read book that touches the heart.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Nursebookie

    A memoir that is heartfelt and well written!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Cameron

    A stirring, beautifully written meditation on how craft can save our lives and redeem even our most seemingly broken relationships. Preszler writes with grace, humor, and keen self-awareness. The final chapter had me sobbing. I’m also never going to look at epoxy the same way after reading the scene where Preszler glued himself to the floor. Highly recommend. Definitely the best thing I’ve read in 2021 so far.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Originally posted on my blog: Nonstop Reader. Little and Often is an honest memoir that is as simple and simultaneously as complex as life. Due out 27th April 2021 from William Morrow/Harper Collins on their Custom House imprint, it's 304 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. This is Originally posted on my blog: Nonstop Reader. Little and Often is an honest memoir that is as simple and simultaneously as complex as life. Due out 27th April 2021 from William Morrow/Harper Collins on their Custom House imprint, it's 304 pages and will be available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately. This is a deeply moving and personal memoir about family, grief, loss, honesty, and growth. The author has a clear and engaging voice and writes openly about difficult and painful periods in his own life. I found myself drawn into his story and I experienced some of the same with my own not-always-easy relationship with my own father. The author uses an interwoven flashback type narrative to retell stories from his past alongside relevant important moments from his father's passing and his own adulthood and careers (he's also a vintner whose merlot was served at Barack Obama's 2013 inaugural luncheon; he picked up a doctorate along the way and has led an otherwise remarkable life). Beautifully written and moving. I enjoyed it a lot. I recommend it to readers of memoir and personal stories. The author is erudite and fascinating. Five stars. Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

  11. 5 out of 5

    ༺Kiki༻

    You might also enjoy: ✱ Crying in H Mart ✱ You Don't Have to Say You Love Me ✱ Gratitude ✱ Everything in Its Place: First Loves and Last Tales ✱ Marram ✱ Islands, the Universe, Home: Essays ✱ The Family on Beartown Road ✱ From a Wooden Canoe You might also enjoy: ✱ Crying in H Mart ✱ You Don't Have to Say You Love Me ✱ Gratitude ✱ Everything in Its Place: First Loves and Last Tales ✱ Marram ✱ Islands, the Universe, Home: Essays ✱ The Family on Beartown Road ✱ From a Wooden Canoe

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Gray

    A beautiful memoir. Preszler left his small town in South Dakota (so far from everything) snd didn't look back until his father called to ask him to come home for Thanksgiving because he was dying. How they reconciled after years of estrangement is at the heart of this but it 's also about Preszler's reconciliation with himself. His inheritance from his father was a toolbox, which he used to build a canoe. It's told in flashbacks that weaves the tale of both men into a coherent narrative. Preszl A beautiful memoir. Preszler left his small town in South Dakota (so far from everything) snd didn't look back until his father called to ask him to come home for Thanksgiving because he was dying. How they reconciled after years of estrangement is at the heart of this but it 's also about Preszler's reconciliation with himself. His inheritance from his father was a toolbox, which he used to build a canoe. It's told in flashbacks that weaves the tale of both men into a coherent narrative. Preszler's life on Long Island cold mot be more different than his upbringing but building the canoe, a reflective process, makes him realize how important even the bad things were. I often find it difficult to review memoirs because it feels as though I'm judging someone's life or life choices but that's not the case here. The writing is terrific and I learned something. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. Great thoughtful read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Emily

    I don’t read very many, but I really enjoyed this one by Trent Preszler. Thank you so much @williammorrowbooks for this lovely gifted copy of Little and Often. I enjoyed the flow of the writing, especially the glimpses going back and forth from past and present. ⠀ This book is very moving, and I took my time reading it, and am so glad I did. (You could say I read this…a little, and often LOL I’m sorry.) I became very invested in the author’s life through this story, his grief and his healing proce I don’t read very many, but I really enjoyed this one by Trent Preszler. Thank you so much @williammorrowbooks for this lovely gifted copy of Little and Often. I enjoyed the flow of the writing, especially the glimpses going back and forth from past and present. ⠀ This book is very moving, and I took my time reading it, and am so glad I did. (You could say I read this…a little, and often LOL I’m sorry.) I became very invested in the author’s life through this story, his grief and his healing process. And now I definitely want to give more memoirs a try!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lee Woodruff

    A beautiful memoir about so much - a son’s grief at his father’s death and the great divide between them.  Growing up poor and gay on a South Dakota ranch, Trent makes his life on a tony Long Island winery, far from his origins. But when his father, a Vietnam vet and rodeo champion dies quickly - he decides to honor his father by building a wooden canoe by hand - which becomes the common thread as he recounts his life.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Read Ng

    This book was recommended to me. This is a self realization tale. How does one deal with the lost of a family member and the discovery of what that loss really means to your life. This book was suggested to me mostly due to the lessons learned developing wood working skills from scratch. Kind of sort of how I am learning to build on my own. Although I am not trying to wrestle some inner demons. I really did like this book, but it is not my usual genre. It was a good change of pace for me. Have a G This book was recommended to me. This is a self realization tale. How does one deal with the lost of a family member and the discovery of what that loss really means to your life. This book was suggested to me mostly due to the lessons learned developing wood working skills from scratch. Kind of sort of how I am learning to build on my own. Although I am not trying to wrestle some inner demons. I really did like this book, but it is not my usual genre. It was a good change of pace for me. Have a GoodReads.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    Following Trent's adventures in boatbuilding for a number of years, being well aware of his attention and dedication to detail, this book still exceeded my expectations. Not only a masterful telling of his incredible journey, this book serves as a lesson and encouragement to follow your path without hesitation. It's a textbook for learning while doing, the best way forward! Bravo, friend, your lovely book is sure to delight and educate, a winning combination. Fair winds, following seas. Following Trent's adventures in boatbuilding for a number of years, being well aware of his attention and dedication to detail, this book still exceeded my expectations. Not only a masterful telling of his incredible journey, this book serves as a lesson and encouragement to follow your path without hesitation. It's a textbook for learning while doing, the best way forward! Bravo, friend, your lovely book is sure to delight and educate, a winning combination. Fair winds, following seas.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    A son's quest to understand his late father. After being estranged for a number of years, the author receives a phone call from his mother saying his dad wants him to come home for Thanksgiving begins a journey of reflection and remembrance of time growing up on a SD farm and the laconic father who saw black and white. Part of the son's journey involves building a strip canoe in time to celebrate the first anniversary of his father's death. It sounds crazy, but you've got to read the book. A son's quest to understand his late father. After being estranged for a number of years, the author receives a phone call from his mother saying his dad wants him to come home for Thanksgiving begins a journey of reflection and remembrance of time growing up on a SD farm and the laconic father who saw black and white. Part of the son's journey involves building a strip canoe in time to celebrate the first anniversary of his father's death. It sounds crazy, but you've got to read the book.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Deborah

    I was completely taken in by this memoir. The author kept it interesting by going back and forth to various times in his life and how relationships and situations made him the person he is today. An added bonus for me was my familiarity with the vineyard and North Fork Long Island location where he works and lives.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Matilda

    3.5 stars. There are definitely things I took from this book that I find meaningful, but overall it was not my favorite memoir. I loved the stories, especially the childhood stories, but I found the way things were written and connected to be lacking a bit for me. I have read a lot of “daddy issue” memoirs, (not to oversimplify), and I have a pretty high bar for that sort of sub-genre, and this just didn’t excite me or strike me the way “H is for Hawk” and “Little Failure” did.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Carol Wit

    I won this book thru Goodreads giveaway's. Thank you Beautifully written memoir, the author definitely captures you and takes you on a journey with him. This story was an account of how, after his father’s death, Preszler built a canoe with his inheritance—his father’s tools. I thought it was quite moving and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I won this book thru Goodreads giveaway's. Thank you Beautifully written memoir, the author definitely captures you and takes you on a journey with him. This story was an account of how, after his father’s death, Preszler built a canoe with his inheritance—his father’s tools. I thought it was quite moving and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Kise

    A very human and raw story of healing, grief and acceptance. Highly recommended

  22. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    Loved it.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sonee Singh

    I don’t normally read memoirs but I enjoyed this one. I decided to read it because the author is a fellow Cornellian. It provides an interesting contrast between the author’s life growing up in a ranch in South Dakota and his current life as a winery manager in New York. The story lays out the complex family dynamics and tragedies in layers so it gets more intricate as new information is revealed.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Ulmer

    Good read. A little too detailed with woodworking. But a very nice story. I love how the ending wrapped all the pieces together.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sunni Parker

    Excellent story- thank you for the opportunity to read this, Trent Preszler!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Connie

    I loved this book! Trent talks through and comes to terms with the events of his life.

  27. 4 out of 5

    LeeAnn

    I liked this book. It was okay. I didn't have any overwhelmingly positive or negative feelings about it. It was a good read. Maybe not in the "feel good" category, but not in the "depressing" category either. Would I recommend it? Possibly. Others may love it. I liked this book. It was okay. I didn't have any overwhelmingly positive or negative feelings about it. It was a good read. Maybe not in the "feel good" category, but not in the "depressing" category either. Would I recommend it? Possibly. Others may love it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Patti

    I don't have adequate words to describe how much I loved this book. Trent does such a good job of telling the story of his life and his relationship with his father. I highly recommend this book. I don't have adequate words to describe how much I loved this book. Trent does such a good job of telling the story of his life and his relationship with his father. I highly recommend this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Laura (crofteereader)

    I'll admit, I was a little leery when William Morrow reached out about sending me a copy of this book. I'm not much of a memoir reader and I hadn't heard of this person of his story before. But it ended up being a very centering experience, reading about this person so torn between his upbringing and his choices for his career. I will say that the flashbacks felt a little scattered and I had a hard time linking them with the canoe-building that was bracketing them. And the moments dealing with Tr I'll admit, I was a little leery when William Morrow reached out about sending me a copy of this book. I'm not much of a memoir reader and I hadn't heard of this person of his story before. But it ended up being a very centering experience, reading about this person so torn between his upbringing and his choices for his career. I will say that the flashbacks felt a little scattered and I had a hard time linking them with the canoe-building that was bracketing them. And the moments dealing with Trent's identity and the tension between him and his father were revealed so late and not discussed in detail that they lost some of the impact. That's not to say that the journey isn't impactful or that the dichotomy between Trent and his dad isn't fascinating and emotional. But personally, I think the organizational choices could have been different. {Thank you William Morrow for the complementary copy; all thoughts are my own}

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ronald Kjar

    Good, but a little self-important I enjoyed the message entailed in the title. I felt that a memoir about life lacked the humility, despite significant experiences, that would have come with a bit more age.

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