I like memoirs. It doesn't have to be an exciting story either, like the stuff of action movies. Ever since the day I sat on a comfy chair in Borders and devoured so much of Blue Like Jazz in one sitting that I had to buy it just to see how it ended, I've been fascinated by real life stories, both the miraculous and the mundane.
In the same way, I was drawn to As Is: Unearthing Commonplace Glory by Krista Finch, for the quirkily beautiful cover art, the back cover blurb ("This is life: noisy, dirty, dangerous."), and the fresh and artistic style found in the writing on her blog. With all this in mind, I was eager to dive into the "journey notes" that make up this different sort of memoir. Though it unfortunately didn't live up to the hype I built in a story-hungry mind that's always on the lookout for the next Anne Lamott, it does provide something like a literary walk in the park, and, bumps in the path aside, is a promising introduction to this young author's career.
The first thing to have in mind entering this book is that this isn't a usual memoir. Finch doesn't present pages and pages of life story or a developed narrative. In fact, except for the loosely themed sections/chapters that all begin with a free verse poem, there's not much structure at all. The table of contents is actually called "sketches," and perhaps that's a more accurate way to describe these writings. They come in short bursts (usually 1 - 2 pages each) that sketch out an image, story, or idea before wrapping up and moving on to the next.
These vignettes pack a lot of poetic writing into small spaces and draw beauty and truth from everyday moments. Still, they only dance on the surface of the story, and I found that frustrating. There are lots of little glimpses, sketches, and stories, but not a narrative flow, a bigger story where we can get to know the author better. I gathered some facts -- she's married, she loves fine wine, her favorite movie is To Kill a Mockingbird -- but never really felt like I knew her. She does well with capturing glimpses of grace in other people, but I really wish she'd opened up more, gone a little deeper. I know it's hard (especially for the first book), but, well... that's what memoirs do. They let you live in another's skin for a little while, through the beautiful and ugly stuff, and let you come back to your own life realizing there are others a lot like you.
All nitpicking aside... perhaps I'm expecting too much. There are simply beautiful bits of prose (see quote at the top), and I enjoyed her poetry. She has a fresh voice and an artistic approach that is sometimes lacking in the more focused books from this genre. There is something charming and refreshing about meandering along in the author's mind, skipping from thought to thought, like flipping through a journal or a writer's notebook. And since it's an indie release (this is the first book published on Krista and her husband Jason's imprint Swerve Press), the presentation has a unique, DIY feel to it like nothing you'd find from a bigger publisher.
I definitely plan to revisit As Is, but not on such a quick timeline. I cleared this one in a day or two, but there's an injustice to reading this all in one go. So next time, I'll be reading slower, in smaller chunks to fully appreciate her style and the truths she telling.
My best recommendation is to first, spend a little time on Krista's blog to see if her style clicks for you. If it does, then it might be worth picking up a copy on her website, or the Kindle version from Amazon. This isn't a particularly deep read that will change your life, but it's a pleasant one with some lovely writing, and fans of indie authors and unique literary style should find something to love in her "commonplace glory." I'm looking forward to the future, both for her career as she continues to grow and develop, and for future new talent from Swerve.
Krista Finch has been writing for 15 years, and As Is is her first published book. Her Midwestern, nuclear family upbringing feels familiar to many readers, but so does her fiery sarcasm, sharp wit, and unique angle on life.
Krista lives a simple life with her husband in Nashville, TN, where they devour books, create art, laugh with friends, and linger over homemade pizza and delicious conversation.
Review copy provided by The Ooze Viral Bloggers
For more info and to buy the book, visit Krista's website: www.kristafinch.com
**10% of proceeds from all sales go to International Justice Mission