Cover Image: All Is Leaf

All Is Leaf

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Member Reviews

All Is Leaf, an essay collection by John T. Price, started strong for me, but, as is often the case with collections, went up and down in terms of my response to individual essays, making for an overall enjoyable but uneven reading experience. 

Price’s main topics/themes include nature (especially our despoiling of it), family (particularly father-son relationships), and the inevitable march of time. In writing about these and other subjects, he ranges widely in form and tone (sometimes within the same essay), and the variety of styles and structures is for the most part a clear plus in the collection. The first essay, one of my favorites in the book, is written as a grant application introduction and Price’s wry, often self-deprecating voice nails his often humorous and sometimes moving explanation of how his project morphed from “a serious environmental essay about a centuries-old burr oak tree in our front yard in Iowa” into something that saw him flying to Germany to research Goethe (and visit an old friend) then touring Buchenwald, and then, five years later (“time flies”), it has become something else entire as his life and career have changed. 

Other original structures were less successful for me. A break-up letter to America had its moments, but didn’t feel particularly fresh (I’ll note my reading was perhaps marred coming as it did within a slew of SCOTUS decisions that had me despairing), while an essay written as a series of speeches to the local high school football team, that again had its moments (all the essays here do) went on way too long for my preferences. And an otherwise engaging and often powerfully emotional essay about a trip with one of his sons was somewhat less enjoyable due to some stylistic choices, though personal mileage will probably vary more on that one than the others I’d say. 

On the other hand, an essay about his father last case before retiring as an attorney was powerful and moving both thanks to its general subject matter (the ways in which the poor, and women in particular) are horribly shortchanged  by the legal system and its personal subject matter (watching his fathers in present time, memories of his father, etc.). It’s a perfect model of what the best creative non-fiction does in how it melds the universal and the personal. It also, in its deft use of a film allusion, has a killer close.  This essay and then first alone I’d argue are worth the cost of admission to the anthology, though as noted even the ones I’d consider weaker entries have something to admire, something to make you think, something to evoke an emotional response.  So uneven, yes, but still recommended reading.
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I'm not big on essays, but I did like many of these, and I can see the intelligence and good writing that presents itself. Recommended.

I really appreciate the free ARC for review!!
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