Speaking as a writer, I know that the memoir is a tough genre, especially to get published. You have to be rich, famous or notorious, or perhaps running for President, for most major publishers to seriously consider a manuscript for a memoir. Speaking as a reader, I’ve read very few memoirs, and the ones I’ve read are mostly by writers I’ve enjoyed reading (the ones that comes immediately to mind are The Oak and the Calf by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, published in 1987, and Surprised by Joy, published by C.S. Lewis in 1955).
And it is about growing up in Minnesota. Northern Minnesota. Way up northern Minnesota. The description of how far north drove me to the atlas, and Margie Haack grew up about as far north as you can grow up in Minnesota and not be a Canadian.
I wondered why I should read a memoir about growing up way up north, and then I started reading it. It took only a few pages to answer my question.
It’s beautifully written.
It’s written with love and a keen eye for detail, and a keener eye for truth.
It’s about faith and brokenness, about a little girl whose father died in a small plane crash a few months before she was born and who never felt loved by her stepfather, whose own children noticed that their grandfather didn’t love them as much as loved the others.
It’s about growing up poor on a farm in an isolated area, in a farmhouse with no indoor plumbing or running water in the kitchen. It’s about the discovery of reading and how it transformed a girl’s life. It’s about the countless ways children can humiliate each other in school. It’s about a mother’s love, and about growing up with siblings, and getting your first horse. It’s about the things that can terrorize a child’s mind. It’s about food, like homemade wild blueberry pie. It’s about the dogs a child grows up with. It’s about the times you almost burned the house down.
It’s about how a little girl found faith, or how God found a little girl whose heart hurt for a father, and a grown woman recognizing that the relationship she had and didn’t have with her stepfather was a gift.
The Exact Place is about life. It’s serious and funny and emotional and heartbreaking. I laughed and got tears in my eyes. I even recognized some of my own childhood, like reading Black Beauty and Reader’s Digest Condensed Versions and worrying about nuclear attacks from Russia.
Kudos to Kalos Press for publishing it. Kudos to Margie Haack for writing it.