What it’s about
Bruno, a 94-pound chocolate lab and model of doggy “marshmallowdom,” is Annick Smith’s companion on a journey across the Great Plains from Montana to Chicago. It’s a road trip through time and space, across memory and family. Her aged mother lives in the Windy City, and Smith went there to check on her and to take her to the family cabin nestled in the sand dunes of Lake Michigan. Throughout the journey, her beloved Brunie keeps Smith grounded. His mundane and simple needs force her to focus on the physical present and keep her from wallowing in the past. She uncharacteristically keeps a journal over the two-week trip, and the narrative is a mix of family, memory, and place, and the stories we tell ourselves about all three.
What I liked
When I started this book, I thought Smith might be falsely modest. Early on, she drops the tidbit that her longtime partner is William Kittredge, one of my favorite writers. But no false modesty is necessary. Smith is an accomplished filmmaker and writer, and it’s clear she doesn’t bask in anyone’s reflected glory. She candidly explores her life and her choices, regretting some and accepting most. Smith is a straight shooter who owns her failures as much as her successes. I found the book simultaneously reassuring and inspiring.
“Usually, I’m too lazy to keep a journal. I try from time to time, believing a writer should, and upon rereading am appalled at my mundane mind.”
“Jobs will tie you down, and I prefer to be free, even if that means being poor.”
“What wildness remains may be found in tornados, blizzards, bars, meth labs, revival meetings, and right-wing politics.”
“Home, I guess, is a construct of the soul, a recognition more than a history.”