Reviews for Hunting for Hope : A Father's Journeys


Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 September 1998
/*Starred Review*/ A small, bright arrowhead of a book: carefully hewn, piercing, balanced; betraying in its form its very substance. Veteran writer Sanders wanted to find a way to tell his children that despite ecological degradation, despite war, despite all that we know to be wrong about contemporary life, that there is hope, and that hope burns fiercely. He does so in a series of essays, some of which take place while he is hiking with his teenage son in the Rockies; others are set at home in Bloomington, Indiana, or in London. One of the ways Sanders offers hope is through the prism of his family: he and his wife, their son and daughter, the parents of his son-in-law, and his mother form the nucleus of a web of relationships kept close by chosen proximity and active care. In "Beauty," he makes so lovely a comparison of his daughter's shining beauty on her wedding day to the beauty of physics and the cosmos as to take the breath away. In "Skill," he makes the building of a stair railing a poem to his mother and to the skill of the welder who makes it a paean to good work well done. Sanders' pleas for simplicity and attachment are reminiscent of others, notably Wendell Berry, but his particular, urgent voice wields that arrowhead of hope into the hearts of his children, his students, and his readers. ((Reviewed September 1, 1998)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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ForeWord Reviews 1998 September
Scott Russell Sanders' Hunting for Hope: A Father's Journey is simply that, a journey towards a clarification of the concept of "hope." This clarification parallels the hiking trips that the author and his son have taken over a two-year period. Sanders' ideas about humanity and human nature, environment, family, relationships, community (both personal and global) are interspersed and carefully woven within the narration of several hiking trips shared by the author and his son, Jesse, as well as other experiences from Sanders' family life. Like the terrain of a mountain trail that changes continually, Hunting for Hope asks many questions, proposes many answers, which in turn engender more questions. Both Jesse and Eva, Sanders' children, are in the process of becoming functioning and contributing members of society, in a word-adults. Thus, they are both the focal point and impetus for much of what the author is trying to express in this book. During a hiking trip Jesse's response to what he perceives to be his father's dark view of the world sets the entire book in motion: "I have to believe there's a way out of this mess. Otherwise what's the point? Why study, why work-why do anything if it's all going to hell?" Conversations with Sanders' family members from the past-recent and not so recent-are the cornerstone, or perhaps more accurately, the stepping-off point, for this inspirational work about coming to grips with what it means to be a human being, both young and old, as we face a new millennium. Sanders has published over 20 nonfiction and fiction books. He has won both the Lannan Literary Award and Great Lakes Book Award for his nonfiction. Hunting for Hope, his latest nonfiction effort, is exceptionally accessible. Sanders writes with a clarity that transcends the nebulous ideas, terms, concepts and general condescension that inhabit many of the recent spiritual renaissance works. Hunting for Hope is an attempt to shed some light on a world that can be perceived to be very dark indeed, particularly from the generation coming of age and those waiting in the wings. It is a work that addresses the idea that Generation X doesn't have to lead to Generation O! (September) Jim Filkins Copyright 1998 ForeWord Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 1998 July #2
A beautifully written tribute to natural beauty, addressed by a tree-hugging hippie dad to his Generation X son. The last time we followed a father and son traveling this profoundly was in Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. While Pirsig called on technology in his search for the sublime, Sanders remains very much the steadfast Romantic anti-technologist (evoking shades of Thoreau and Emerson). This philosophical book's occasion involves his very '90s son Jason, who, at 17, is weary of hearing his father criticize every aspect of our current, coarse lack of interest in the environment. After all, it is hard to keep up with such a sensitive and erudite father, and so Jason ends up walking ahead of his dad on their excursion to the Rocky Mountains. When he accuses the elder Sanders of darkening their world unduly with bleak complaints, the author realizes that his son is partly right to carp about all of Sanders s carping. He then tries to make up for it, panning persuasively for hope in nature. He peppers his prose with quotes from a wide range of writers, especially the great naturalists and Romantics; cites examples of ecosystems or species that are now actually rebounding; and wins from Jason a temporary truce. Sanders truly communes with the natural world, reveling in its simplicity and wild charms. Still, despite the book's premise as a response to the Jasons of this world, Sanders fails to reckon seriously with his boy, just as he grows maudlin about his daughter's very conventional wedding. For Sanders, as for Keats, beauty is truth. But his amoral vision makes him a more cogent artist than teacher except for die-hard Romantic readers. Copyright 1998 Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1998 August #1
In these wise and luminous essays, Sanders takes on big themes: living a centered life, our relation to animals and to nature, the survival of human values in our greed-driven commercial culture. The leitmotif is his not-quite-extinguished hope for a livable, sane world offering people a decent future a hope he nurtures despite the ecological devastation, family breakdown and moral decay he sees. Notable among these 15 adventurous essays are "Skill," a meditation on the life-enhancing use or the misuse of one's innate talents; "The Way of Things," an attempt to reconcile modern cosmology with ancient beliefs in a divine creator; "Body Bright," a Blakean call for cleansing the doors of perception, reconnecting with the planet and our fellow creatures; and "Fidelity," which explores marriage as an arena for the fulfillment of desire. The thread through this labyrinth of ideas is Sanders's account of backpacking in the Colorado Rockies with his son whose optimism tempers the fatherly pessimism. Although these beautifully written pieces are reminiscent of Wendell Berry's essays in their economy, grace and moral passion, Sanders projects his own distinctive voice, at once recognizably Midwestern (he's from Indiana by way of Ohio) and universal. Editor, Deanne Urmy; agent, John Wright. (Sept.) Copyright 1998 Publishers Weekly Reviews

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