Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Places in the World a Person Could Walk

Places in the World a Person Could Walk: Family, Stories, Home, and Place in the Texas Hill Country by David Syring was published in 2000. My paperback copy has 200 pages, including the bibliography. The nonfiction personal family history is broken up into five parts:
Part 1 Speaking in Tongues, Telling Tales: Family Stories
Part 2 Honey Creek Church - Chapter and Verse
Part 3 Migrations toward Home: Fredericksburg, Texas
Closings: Beginning Again
I would have to say that the purpose of Syring's book was somewhat confusing. On the one hand it is a book about his family's tragic history of poverty and abuse in the Texas hill country; on the other hand, it also explores the area as it stands today. The author could have improved the book if he made it into two sections and clearly made a distinction between the family history versus the area today. The telling of the family history could have been better organized too.

Like the author, I have never lived in one place enough to call any place home in the sense that Syring is exploring, and I truly understood Syring's curiosity about people who live in one area their entire lives. Some of the quotes I flagged were based on this mutual understanding. Syring's book would probably be of more interest to those living in Texas hill country or relatives of Syring. While it is certainly not a bad book, it does have a limited audience. Rating: 2.5

Synopsis from cover:
Spring-fed creeks. Old stone houses. Cedar brakes and bleached limestone. The Hill Country holds powerful sway over the imagination of Texans. So many of us dream of having our own little place in the limestone hills. The Hill Country feels just like home, even if you've never lived there.
This beautifully written book explores what the Hill Country has meant as a homeplace to the author, his family, and longtime residents of the area, as well as to newcomers. David Syring listens to the stories that his aunts, uncles, and cousins tell about life in the Hill Country and grapples with their meaning for his own search for a place to belong. He also collects short stories focused around Honey Creek Church to consider how places become containers for memory. And he draws upon several years of living in Fredericksburg to talk about the problems and opportunities created by heritage tourism and the development of the town as a "home" for German Americans. These interconnected stories illuminate what it means to belong to a place and why the Texas Hill Country has become the spiritual, if not actual, home of many people.
"...I drove to the small piece of property that I call 'the shack' and my aunts and uncles call 'the country place.' The difference between those who lived here once, and one who only visits." pg. 2

"I have not lived in one place for more than a decade at a time, and it is possible that I never will. So what can a sense of place possibly mean for my life?" pg. 3

"I once told a friend that families were like minefields, that we walk and dance through them never knowing where or when something is going to explode..." pg. 15, quoting Mary Helen Washington in Memory of Kin

"He was taking our history, Syring history, and selling it for a dollar." pg. 63

"I've been moving most of my life, and it's not so much because I've wanted to, but it seems that's just the way it always has been. Sometimes I'd like nothing better than to settle down in some little house with a garden and get on with the real work of tending a place. I've come close a few times, but to this day, everytime I start getting established someplace, something comes up and I've got to move on. I suppose my upbringing has something to do with it." pg. 102-103

"...the past does not, in fact, have to determine the present. Grappling with the memory of painful stories has become a path of healing." pg. 184

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