I found this book to be profoundly moving and a remarkably unique memoir, quite different from anything else in the genre I’ve read before. It is not one chronological or linear narrative, spanning Busch’s life thus far in a straightforward arc. Instead, being the “elemental” person that he introduces himself as in the prologue , Busch fashions each chapter around a different element: wood, bone, stone, blood, metal, water, dust, and more. Each chapter then takes the shape of an ellipse of sorts—starting usually with some piece of his childhood, then moving forward and through various scenes: a battle-ravaged village in Iraq, then to a street in Baltimore while shooting a scene as an actor for The Wire, then to his farmland in Michigan, and then curling back around to a bookending scene in the forest of his boyhood.
While this structure may take some getting used to, it doesn’t come off as muddled or confusing. It defies the reader’s attempt to fit each piece of Busch’s life together in a seamless plot, instead allowing one to breathe along with the pulses of the story. The book is very deliberately paced, meant to work as a meditation on childhood, on family, on loss, but mostly especially—on memory. As such, it seemed appropriate to me that it flows in such an unusual way, circling back and then leaping forward, clinging to the same scenes and emotions, in much the way our own memory works. The language itself is stunning, a fluid and lyrical prose, verging on poetic in places, and it’s almost unfathomable how this is Busch’s first published book. I think pretty much anyone who picks this book up will be glad they did, as long as they give themselves the time to fully immerse themselves in it, to be cast back to their childhood. To remember.