A Step from Death (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Larry Woiwode’s memoir A Step from Death is more a successor than a sequel to his first memoir, What I Think I Did: A Season of Survival in Two Acts (2000). Much like its predecessor, A Step from Death is a loosely structured and meandering memoir focused on ideas more than a simple recounting of a straightforward, linear narrative rendering a particular time in an author’s life. As such, the book’s shifting structure is anchored by two conceits. First, the book is presented as a letter to the author’s son, Joseph, in the tradition of the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1791). The book begins, “So, dear son, where to begin?” As reviewers have noted, this conceit becomes slightly tenuous at times because Woiwode, in telling stories from his past, must recount and elaborate upon events and circumstances that his son Joseph presumably would already know about in some detail. Nevertheless, Woiwode explains both his aim and his method when he addresses his son and readers, stating,Every detail I stumble over or move away to clear a path to the exit is a fragment of memory, and memory is a contract between the past and our instinct to shape it into a story that will cohere far into the future. A memoir should recognize that contract and dissolve the distance between us, and by that I mean not only the attentive reader, my soul’s semblance, my mirror, my brother or sister, but mostly you, Joseph, my only son.
(The entire section is 1674 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
America 199, no. 4 (August 18, 2008): 26.
Booklist 104, nos. 9/10 (January 1, 2008): 21.
The Christian Century 125, no. 13 (July 1, 2008): 41.
Christianity Today 52, no. 8 (August, 2008): 58.
Entertainment Weekly, March 21, 2008, p. 63.
Kirkus Reviews 76, no. 1 (January 1, 2008): 34.
Library Journal 133, no. 4 (March 1, 2008): 83.
The New York Times Book Review, March 30, 2008, p. 17.
Publishers Weekly 255, no. 2 (January 14, 2008): 52.
The Wall Street Journal 251, no. 56 (March 8, 2008): W8.
(The entire section is 46 words.)