When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on VoiceWhen Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice by Terry Tempest Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

in ten years, should i still be on the planet, i might begin to get a grip on this book. but even now, i know when i’ve been told something really really important, and to which attention must be paid.

the author sets out in this book to write about what voice signifies for women, and particularly for women writers. in prose sometimes poetic, sometimes elegaic, sometimes with the rolling cadences of a sermon (a rhetorical form with which i have remarkably little experience, but which can be immensely powerful), she writes about her mother’s journals: three shelves of journals, left to the author upon her mother’s death, and all completely blank.

where was her mother’s voice?

Terry Tempest Williams circles this enigma in slow, lazy spirals. the emotional intensity of this book runs like electric current throughout. i do not think it is a book meant to be read once, like a self-help book promising you better prose in 14 days. it’s more like a series of koans or meditations, and it’s going to take some hard work to follow along.

but her writing alone will make it worth the effort. she’s one of the rare ones, a writer whose work is as clear as pellucid air in the desert southwest, who invites you to take the long view, to see the entirety of the landscape, and yet to also note the little beetles in the sand by your feet.

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