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An American Memory

"In An American Memory the past is the enemy. This haunting first novel is the scarred history of three generations of the Reiner family—descendents of Norwegian pioneers—whose portraits are sketched against the vast spread of the Midwestern plains. Seen through the eyes of the third generation, An American Memory captures the land’s pulsating rhythms and a boy’s isolation. The boy, Malcolm, lives in a sparsely furnished house on a half-abandoned farm near the town of West Tree, Minnesota. He is a quiet child who grows up listening.

"In winter, he hears the sweeping force of wind rolling across the prairie and a fine powder of snow hissing against the windowpanes. In summer, he hears a series of shots fired across a lake and the frail, wavering done of an outboard motor. Always, in all seasons, he listens to the sounds of his father—from the most minute noises such as the clicking of a camera, the rustling of book pages, to the sudden, eruptive ones: a door bursting from its hinges, a table being smashed. And, increasingly, he listens to the clinking of ice in gin glasses and the grinding spasms of a cigarette cough.

"Most painful of all are the sounds the boy does not hear, the words the father never speaks. Told in silence and imagine, here is a struggle for life itself—against time, the past, and psychological forces that cripple.

"Ultimately, An American Memory becomes the story of healing, of a tentative move toward wholeness, of memory articulated with new patterns of love. And, through it all, Eric Larsen speaks in a distinctive voice, penetrating in perception and ripe with melody."

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An American Memory (1988), Published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.