Friday, December 6, 2013

G183 The Distancers; An American Memoir

Title: The Distancers; An American Memoir

Author: Lee Sandlin

First copyright date: 2013

Type of book: Multi-generations, German, German-Americans, 1850s- 1990s, tales, anecdotes, Great Depression, moving, Mississippi River, faith

General subject matter: A story of Lee Sandlin's ancestors from his mother's side

Special features: Few black and white pictures

Price: About $10.00

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0345806765

Summary:

A sweeping, lush, and quintessentially American tale that is heartbreaking, hopeful, and cut from the very fabric of the heartland.A VINTAGE ORIGINAL.

In The Distancers, seven generations worth of joy and heartache is artfully forged into a family portrait that is at once universally American yet singularly Lee Sandlin's own. From the nineteenth century German immigrants who settled on a small Midwestern farm, to the proud and upright aunts and uncles with whom Sandlin spent the summers of his youth, a whole history of quiet ambition and stoic pride-of successes, failures, and above all endurance-leaps off the page in a sweeping American family epic. Touching on The Great Depression, WWII, the American immigrant experience, the uses of proper manners, how to ride the rails in the dust bowl years, and home brewing during prohibition, The Distancers is a beautiful and stark Midwestern drama, about a time and place long since vanished, where the author learned the value of family and the art of keeping one's distance.

Author's Purpose: Very often the stories of greats are written and sold, leaving the ordinary folks to be forgotten. I think he wrote the book to prove that ordinary folks can be as interesting as the greats can be. I also think he wrote the book for self-discovery on why these particular relatives were the way they are.

a. Why did the author write on this subject rather than on some other subject?

In the prologue the author goes into a great detail of the impact a particular house had on him and on his family, as well as the lessons that the four had imparted to him of when he was a child. He then begins to trace this history and trying to find out as much as he can about the four inhabitants and why they were this way.

b. From what point of view is the work written?

Its written from third person narrative and from what seems to be sort of omniscient point of view. A lot of characters played a role in the book, and the author gives them distinct personalities I believe.

c. Was the author trying to give information, to explain something technical, to convince the reader of a belief’s validity by dramatizing it in action?

I think the author was trying to explain something technical as well as give information about his family. Since 1850s the family seemed to have remained mysterious and barely left their marks anywhere. I think he was also trying to explain how these four inhabitants came into this situation.

d. What is the general field or genre, and how does the book fit into it? (Use outside sources to familiarize yourself with the field, if necessary.) Knowledge of the genre means understanding the art form. and how it functions.

I think the book belongs to the memoir section as well as American history (1850s-1990s) and non-fiction. Its a biography of everyday people rather than the rich and famous or infamous.

e. Who is the intended audience?

Perhaps those who share the author's ancestry or memories, or perhaps his immediate family and friends. In a way it can be used by many people, but only if they're okay with mediocre of the ancestors.

f. What is the author's style? Is it formal or informal? Evaluate the quality of the writing style by using some of the following standards: coherence, clarity, originality, forcefulness, correct use of technical words, conciseness, fullness of development, fluidity. Does it suit the intended audience?

The styles strikes me as informal actually because the author never cites the sources for his stories or anything of the kind. It also seems like something anyone can pick up or read and either identify or not with what's going on.

g. Scan the Table of Contents, it can help understand how the book is organized and will aid in determining the author's main ideas and how they are developed - chronologically, topically, etc.

*Prologue
*Just Shy of the Mississippi
*Bosh's only Idea
*The Last of the Old Country
*The Champion Distancer
*We can't take care of our own
*The world doesn't owe you a living
*War Fever
*Nobody would ever guess
*One last parade
*Things they never told
*This is all I know
*Afterword: Heilongjiang

g. How did the book affect you? Were any previous ideas you had on the subject changed, abandoned, or reinforced due to this book? How is the book related to your own course or personal agenda? What personal experiences you've had relate to the subject?

I found it a bit entertaining, but I wasn't happy that 1850s-1900s seemed to literally flash through the pages. Last year I read an interesting memoir about descendants of Mozingo and that was a very fascinating read in numerous ways. I kind of thought this book would be the same way, with research and so forth, but alas no luck. The author seems to rely on anecdotes and there isn't  a lot of research when it comes to his family.

h. How well has the book achieved its goal?

I think the book has done a good job in achieving its goal because the reader does learn more about his family and the four mysterious people that the author visited in childhood.

i. Would you recommend this book or article to others? Why?

I'm honestly not sure whether or not I'd recommend this book. I admit that its entertaining, but it doesn't seem to have heart pounding excitement. Perhaps if someone sees me reading it and remarks upon it, I might tell them about it, but other than that, I don't think I will.

a. Theme: The theme is the subject or topic. It is not necessarily the title, and it is usually not expressed in a complete sentence. It expresses a specific phase of the general subject matter.

Ordinary people also need their stories told.

b. Thesis: The thesis is an author’s generalization about the theme, the author’s beliefs about something important, the book’s philosophical conclusion, or the proposition the author means to prove. Express it without metaphor or other figurative language, in one declarative sentence.

Its possible to trace and learn history of one's ancestors.

Quick notes: I won this book on goodreads.com thus this review will appear in its entirety on goodreads as well as the blog.

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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