Does an honest memoir exist? Is one even possible? As memoirs are necessarily selective, isn’t there a tendency to extol one’s virtues, hide one’s flaws? For those who admit to having, let’s say, a complex life, even a flawed life, an honest memoir becomes an act of courage. Joe Blair’s new book, “By the Iowa Sea: a Memoir of Disaster and Love,” is such an act of courage. It is also a compelling, beautifully written story set during the Iowa floods of 2008, when nature’s weight bore down on a great many Iowans, Blair included.
Blair bears other burdens as well. A free spirit who as a young man dreamed of riding into the distance in pursuit of adventure on a Harley finds himself bent if not broken by the approach of middle age, dreams unrealized now that he is a heating and cooling man in a crumbling marriage with four children–one of whom is severely autistic.
With the floods as backdrop, Blair recounts his story, inner thoughts revealed, slowly unfolding like a flower, a black rose perhaps, that crumbles in our hands, bloodied by thorns.
While it took great courage to write this memoir, it took even greater courage for Blair to sustain his life. While he couldn’t hold back the flood, he could wait until it subsided. He also waited till the waters of his life that were on the verge of drowning him, subsided.
His marriage is intact, his children have their father. May we all have at least of bit of Blair’s courage when we need it.
Reviewed by Bob Leonard
author of Yellow Cab