Guest review by Janelle Bailey, retired Literature teacher.
This is truly a gorgeous graphic construction of an extremely thoughtful and thought-provoking non-fiction work of literature. And the fact that it is all, coincidentally, built and written by a Bay Port High School grad/once a local, to boot, is awfully cool! Way to go, Kristen!
A lot about this book reminded me of Mira Jacob’s Good Talk, so I was only pleasantly surprised to see her acknowledged at the end of this book.
I reflected on so much while reading this, prompted by very intellectual assertions by its author, as she investigated concepts as diverse and wide-ranging as American “cowboys,” the current declining enrollment in civic organizations, railroad building and travel, and more, while also pondering her own family members, her own personal history, and the lives of these individuals matching or not those around them.
The entire book is just plain smart and thoughtful, and I may just read it again to make sure I didn’t miss anything the first time, for how densely loaded it is with good stuff. It truly sparked my interest in and thoughts about the included diverse topics. And that made me realize how much work Radtke must have done not only researching her ideas but then also determining which to include and how little or much of each, for this could have been a far longer work, given all she mentions and touches on. She does a fine job of whetting the reader’s appetite and interest for these ideas, addressing them a bit, but not dwelling or overdoing any, only initiating the thoughts and ideas at times.
This book also addresses a long-held idea I have processed myself that true loneliness is much less about being physically “alone” than it often is about “feeling” alone, even at times in an actual crowd or physically surrounded by others. It made me think about an essay I used to teach in my classroom about the value and lost art of solitude. Personally, I still feel like being in my own house all alone and able to breathe deeply and differently is a relished and rare treat, something to treasure, and not at all lonely…for me. And yet I have been in numerous situations when I have been literally surrounded by plenty of people but feel completely alone…in my thinking, my values, my understanding of things, my great wishes to be, then, anywhere else…or even alone instead. Loneliness is a mindset, I think, and has very little to do with a magic number of people in a particular place at a particular time.
I think that in this current world, isolation is of greater concern than loneliness, and hopefully others also see…and seek…the value of virtual connection and togetherness such that they do not have to feel any more alone than they wish to.
Kudos to Radtke for creating this beautiful, thoughtful book!