Part essay collection, part memoir and part meditation, The Faraway Nearby
takes a thoughtful, fresh look at how stories function in our lives: the ones we tell ourselves, the ones we've been told by others, the ones we've read or been read or want to write, and the ones we live or let die or finally kill off in ourselves to be free. What makes the book so readable is Solnit's own story about her mother's descent into dementia and Solnit's struggles to take care of her, assuming responsibility for everything from the apricots on her mother's tree to the securing of a nursing home. Along the way, she finds links between her mother's crumbling inner narrative and far more famous, fabulous stories like Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
and 1001 Arabian Nights
. That is, until a plot twist occurs that could have only happened in reality. Solnit finds out she—not her mother—has the far more serious medical problem: cancer. "Your life," she writes during a particularly excruciating visit to the doctor, "contains mysteries you do not understand." At the same time, she never gives up on the idea that any of us can redefine who we are and what we want—even in our most overwhelming and challenging periods. "What's your story?" she asks. "It's all in the telling."