About the Book
When she left a chaotic home at eighteen, Sarah Fawn Montgomery chased restlessness, claiming places on the West Coast, Midwest, and East Coast, while determined never to settle. But it is difficult to move forward when she longs for the past. Now her family is ravaged by addiction, illness, and poverty; the nation is increasingly divided; and the natural worlds where she seeks solace are under siege by wildfire, tornados, and unrelenting storms. Turning to nostalgia as a way to grieve a rapidly-changing world, Montgomery excavates the stories and scars we bury, unearthing literal and metaphorical childhood time capsules and treasures.
Blending lyric memoir with lamenting cultural critique, Montgomery examines contemporary longing and desire, sorrow and ache, searching for how to build a home when human connection is disappearing, and how to live meaningfully when our sense of self is uncertain in a fractured world. Taking readers from the tide pools and monarch groves of California, to the fossil beds and grass prairies of Nebraska, to the scrimshaw shops and tangled forests of Massachusetts, Montgomery holds a mirror up to America and asks us to reflect on our past before we run out of time to save our future. Halfway from Home grieves a vanishing world while offering—amidst emotional and environmental collapse—ways to discover hope, healing, and home.
Winner of a 2023 Nautilus Award
“Simultaneously beautiful and tragic, nostalgic and despondent…Brilliant.”
“Every page contains stunning details, often rendered in sensuous language . . . An accomplished collection of thoughtful meditations on home, nature, and family.”
“Insights, discovery, longing and revelation that is rooted in archaeology, geology, and the world of nature . . . one of the most compelling collections this year.”
—Midwest Book Review
"An intimate poetic excavation of the search for meaning in a life on a planet that’s burning."
“Infused with longing as it reflects on an increasingly fractured world . . . If you’ve ever had someone tell you they can feel a coming storm in their bones, then you’ll recognize the ache and longing and fear Halfway from Home rings like a warning bell.”
“A lyrical and precise cartography of what it means to belong.”
“Her history is a form of poetics. Her storytelling is a geometry.”
“An intensely personal journey that flashes a reflective mirror upon American society exposing our collective imperfections and scars.”
“Masterfully explored, deeply informed.”
“Montgomery's rich, lyrical prose explores the spaces between what has been excavated, removed, damaged and destroyed and the possibility of what might one day be connected, restored, made whole and at home.”
—The New Territory
"The collection is a master class in writing the segmented / mosaic / braided essay."
“In vivid, compelling prose, Sarah Fawn Montgomery explores nostalgia, restlessness, and a complexity of grief sparked by personal loss and a world that often seems constantly aflame. Intensely intimate, the brilliant essays in Halfway from Home offer a deep dive into the vagaries of family and time."
—Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic & Desire
"In Halfway from Home, Montgomery brilliantly folds self into place, making it clear that the two cannot be separated. Lyricism transforms rock into steadiness, ocean into exploration, grass into patience. In magnificent rhythm Montgomery patiently, steadily explores home and family. Here, place scars. Place shapes. Place rubs sometimes soft and sometimes hard. Here, Montgomery’s longing for a better place burns with a kind of brilliance only someone with such profound insight can set alight. "
—Nicole Walker, author of Sustainability: A Love Story
"Through stories personal, familial, and communal, Halfway from Home explores the eternal concepts of time and longing, memory and connection. In writing that is stunningly vivid, Sarah Fawn Montgomery generates an inviting and invigorating space for readers to experience her experiences, think with her through tantalizing ideas, feel nostalgia for a life that is not their own."
—Patrick Madden, author of Disparates
"Halfway from Home is like the “treasure hole” of Sarah Fawn Montgomery’s childhood—wondrous, surprising, crafted with generosity and care—a bounty born of deep excavation, as well as a deep connection with the earth itself. These essays crackle with clear-eyed insight, ache with nostalgia and grief, sing with a poet’s attention to the rhythm and sound of language. When I read Montgomery's description of a wasp’s nest “swelling like a womb, like a wound above us,” I had to pause to catch my breath. Montgomery writes of rolling sentences in her mouth like bright berries; her sentences are just as brilliant and sweet and tart and nourishing for those of us lucky enough to receive them. A timely, timeless, mesmerizing collection."
—Gayle Brandeis, author of The Art of Misdiagnosis
"Sarah Fawn Montgomery writes with the finely moderated combination of generous vulnerability and searing intellect as she ventures with lyric intensity into the subject of climate change and its intersection with race, gender, political and social policy, and family. As an essayist, she is willing to experiment, to stretch the bounds of the form, and above all, she seeks to contextualize her experiences within the larger socio-political realities of American society. One has the alluring sense that she writes on a quest to discover, and we are grateful for her generosity in taking us along with her. Halfway from Home is a work of urgency, sensibility, and immediacy."
—Kwame Dawes, Editor of Prairie Schooner
“My earliest memory is of leaving one home in search of another,” writes Sarah Fawn Montgomery in Halfway From Home, a dazzling collection of essays that explores memory, nostalgia, and place; girlhood and womanhood, impermanence and time; and the question of inheritance—what we carry, the scars and secrets and stories we bear, how we leave and long for places that no longer exist, to which we can never return. Montgomery is both essayist and cartographer, charting the map of her life, measuring the distance between cities and prairies, present and past, attempting to hold on to what’s been lost while looking with hope toward the future. She digs clear-eyed into the mines of her family history, excavating what’s been buried and discovering what it means to be haunted. But what she finds is not all darkness. At its heart, this book is a love letter: to Montgomery’s father, to her family, to the natural world; to California coastlines and the vast Great Plains, to the landscapes of one’s life, to the homes we’ve known and the ones we’re still learning to build. Montgomery has written a gorgeous, deeply felt ode to the search for belonging, to the deeply human act of seeking to find a place we might call our own.
—Melissa Faliveno, author of Tomboyland