phantomPhantom Limb by Theresa Kishkan

From the cover:

Phantom Limb invites readers to explore culture and nature by looking at landscape and place through a series of historical lenses, ranging from natural history to family history to the broader notions of regional and human history. In her popular essay “month of wild berries picking” Theresa Kishkan reveals the extent to which native stories articulate the complexity and importance of rules that govern relationships between species. In essays such as “The One Currach Returning Alone” and “Well” she explores her affinity with Ireland, the weight of its history, the peace of its geography, the roads that lead to collective memory, or the magic of its wishing wells. Other travel essays remind us of the tolerance and diversity that new cultures elicit from us, while teaching us how bound we are to the soil and air of our homes. What resonates throughout this collection is a rich lyricism and a distinctive visceral imagery. Though Kishkan is among those literary naturalists who embrace setting for their euphoric and serious experiences, her words transcend the flora and fauna to engage human relationships, social concerns, historical milieus, and political boundaries. For this reason Phantom Limb stands elegantly in its own energy and light.

My thoughts:

Phantom Limb is a book to be savored, the words and images lingered over. Throughout her essays, Kishkan takes objects and experiences in her life and descibes them in ways that make me look at the world around me with new eyes. She then connects those events to more universal themes, our connections to the world around us and to the past.

Many of her essays have the outdoors as their starting point. “I think we are more deeply connected to nature than we believe.” (73) To be honest, I’m not a nature lover. I like it in theory, but I need my concrete. Kishkan, though, allowed me to appreciate the fish, birds, bears and plants that populate this book.

Several of the essays, including “An Autobiography of Stars”, “Coltsfoot” and “Laundry”, discuss family relationships, some close, some strained. I, like most people, can relate to these stories of family, even if they don’t represent ours, and I dream of the day when I can go exploring with my daughter, when she is an adult, like Kishkan and her son do in “Well”.

I could go on about the new appreciation she has given me of quilting, of making “something of beauty to take her out of her life each day, or more deeply into it.” (107) I could talk about how she takes old myths and markers and makes them have meaning for us today, but really you need to read the book to appreciate it. In Phantom Limb, Kishkan not only describes her world but encourages us to look more closely at ours, to pay attention to and treasure the events and objects we may take for granted. 

Thanks to the miniBook Expo for Bloggers for the book. I’m torn between keeping this book and giving it away. I loved it, but want others to read it,too. I’ve decided to find a copy of Kishkan’s Red Laredo Boots for me to read and hold a giveaway for my copy gently used copy of Phantom Limb. If you would like to be entered, leave me a comment telling me why you want to read it, but make sure you say something more than “It sounds good.” I want to make sure it goes to someone who will actually read it, not just stick it on their TBR pile, never to see the light of day. I’m sorry, but I have to restrict this to US only. I will draw a winner on January22.


  • theresa kishkan

    How lovely to read this, Carol. If you send me your mailing address, I’d be so pleased to send you a copy of Phantom Limb to keep for yourself. I can’t offer Red Laredo Boots, I’m afraid, as I only have one or two copies of it left.

  • mindy

    i would love to read this as it seems to give new perspectives and ideas to every day things thereby appreciating them even more thanks for the giveaway

  • Darby Lohrding

    Oh I love the sound of this thought provoking book! With the pictures and the essays. It would be a nice book to refer to when going to your escape place, isn’t an option!
    I am a nature lover and that is my favorite place to go when I need to escape…to ponder the leaves, the birds, the trees, etc. Also I can relate about the part you shared on quilting…I do that or go there thru my hand bead weaving/stiching.
    Thanks so much for offering your copy to us!
    darbyscloset at yahoo dot com

  • This sounds like a very peaceful book, the sort of thing that makes your mind think while relaxing you. I always feel a connection to nature around me, especially at night. My interest in history has always leaned towards culture. I guess I should have focused on anthropology. The idea of being connected to the world in a deeper way than what we experience on the surface is very beautiful to me.

  • carolsnotebook

    Just wanted to mention that there are not any photos in the book, although with her descriptions you don’t need them to picture the places.

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