Returning to Earth by Jim Harrison (Grove Press) is Harrison’s ninth novel. It’s the tale of Donald Burkett, a 45-year-old, terminally ill Chippewa-Finnish man who is determined to chronicle his family’s history before he dies. An excellent review of Returning to Earth in the New York Times says that:
…”Returning to Earth” represents an interesting new wrinkle in Harrison’s novelistic inquiry. Whereas his fiction generally wrestles with the nature of a good life, this novel explores the theory and practice (to steal a favorite phrase of the author’s) of a good death.
At 45, Donald is wasting away from a particularly aggressive case of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Beloved by his family and friends, he has a heroism that consists of thoroughly being himself â€” a lifelong resident of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, of Chippewa-Finnish extraction, a contractor steady in his affections, given to wry understatement and proud of his capacity for work. His young buddy, K, compares Donald to a tugboat, “slow to achieve speed but with an irresistible surge of power.” His son, Herald, says of him, “There aren’t very many people like my father anymore.”
You can also read the first chapter of the book at the link above, check out another review from UpinMichigan.org and (later this week or early next) explore much more about Jim Harrison in an Absolute Michigan feature on this noted Michigan author.
The Michigan Notable Books program annually selects 20 of the most notable books published in the year. The selections are reflective of Michigan’s diverse ethnic, historical, literary, and cultural experience. You can click to view more Notable Books featured on Absolute Michigan and learn more about the program at www.michigan.gov/notablebooks.