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Some writers look at life with their eyes, others with their hearts. In this collection of personal stories, Peter Damm does both. His vignettes of growing up in small-town rural Michigan are also a closely observed portrait of mid-20th-century America. The lyrical tones of the storyteller are generous, wry, elegiac, and humorous, as he recalls the joys of fishing on Lake Platte or feasting on wild blueberries in autumn. This is not, however, a collection of pretty postcards. Damm’s family experienced depression, alcoholism, and loss, and he writes with a survivor’s compassion. These are beautifully illustrated stories for all the senses, held in place by strands of memory that alternate between steel and gold.
A Note From the Publisher
Book Illustrator: Suzanne Anderson-Carey
“Peter Damm’s stories about growing up in Michigan made me laugh aloud, cry, and occasionally wince when they hit too close to home. He infuses his stories with a deeply felt sense of place—the lakes and forests of his youth take on the presence of characters in his narrative. This is a lovely collection, well-conceived and beautifully told. The clean economy of the language and its cadences possess a quality that is almost poetic. Wild Blueberries is a gem.”
—William Rodarmor, award-winning journalist and translator
“Peter Damm’s memoir is a joy to read. What emerges is a lyrical, rich, and complex account of growing up in rural Michigan. The story of his Catholic coming of age is skeptical in tone, at times amusing, yet we see how a sheltering tradition can comfort and unify. I read Wild Blueberries in two sittings, held by its directness and simplicity. It was a pleasure to be in the hands of an intelligent and generous author.”
—Leo Litwak, Guggenheim Fellow; winner, 1970 Jewish National Book Award, and 1st Prize in the 1990 O. Henry Awards
“I will wear this book out to my heart’s content, keep it on my bedside table, and dog-ear my favorite pages. In my work, I’ve read at least 1,500 manuscripts. Only a handful have affected me in this way in terms of the quality of the writing. I like the unaffected narrator who shares his search for an assembled, integrated version of the past, and conveys so clearly the idea that what counts here is the truth.”
—Susan Harper, writer, editor, university instructor of Creative Writing
“Peter Damm tenderly sketches the delights and tribulations of a seemingly quiet Midwestern childhood. As he wrestles with the riddles of his Catholic inheritance, we hear the questions of a smart, sensitive young man trying to puzzle out the mysteries of sin, sex, and spirit, and make sense of the adult world. The gentleness and humor of Damm’s stories invites the reader to reflect on his or her own journey to maturity.”
—J. Ruth Gendler, artist, teacher, author of The Book of Qualities
"In telling stories from his earliest days, Peter Damm gives extraordinary visual and aural texture to those stories. When he describes conversations, or rooms occupied, or injuries sustained, his prose is completely credible—the reader can immediately tell that he hasn’t given in to the temptation to write a “better story” by tampering with the details. His memory is so capacious that it recreates the world of his childhood and allows us into it. Even the “voice” in his prose reflects this: these stories of a very young boy are told with sentence structures that are consistent with how that boy actually lived his life. To a child, life isn’t complex, it’s new (whether joyful or painful), and Damm’s writing is consistent with that way of seeing the world. As the young Peter grows, his worldview inevitably becomes more complicated—and Damm’s writing from chapter to chapter subtly mirrors this evolution. Before I came across Wild Blueberries, I read Amos Oz’s autobiography A Tale of Love and Darkness. The two books are as unalike as the lives of the two boys: growing up among Eastern European Jewish immigrants in war-torn Israel/Palestine is far from growing up in Eisenhower’s Michigan, yet both these wonderful books succeed in recreating long-disappeared times and places, and picturing the sensitive and intelligent boys who inhabited them.
—Richard F. Hill lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. When not practicing law, he’s reading.
Advance Review Outreach
Summer 2019 four-state author tour, including signing events and readings at bookstores in Michigan. Ohio, Illinois, and northern California.
Featured in the Great Lakes and Midwest Independent Booksellers Association holiday catalogs.
Finalist: “Midwest Favorite” Great Lakes Great Reads Award
Display at 2019 Book Expo and International Rights Center
Author signings at 2019 NCIBA and PNBA
Audio available from Blackstone Audio (now available via Audible; later this year, listeners will be able to find on any retailers’ platforms such as Google, Downpour, iTunes, WalMart, Amazon (CD).
The ebook is available across all major platforms.