The Exact Place by Margie L. Haack (Kalos Press, 2012)
Memoir / Home and Place / Rural Life
Why We Love It: “Poverty and a stepfather who liked me about as well as a broken trailer hitch were more difficult to receive, and yet I sense the danger that awaits one who refuses such gifts. So it was here, in the midst of a glory and brokenness, where I found a miracle — or at least, pretty near to one: it was the thread of redemption that ran through my childhood, even through the dark hours after midnight.”
Margie Haack grew up with her five siblings in a three room shotgun house nestled in the swampland near the Minnesota / Canada border. For years, her family farmed the land and weathered poverty, and while this might sound like the start of a “can you believe I survived this” kind of story, The Exact Place is a actually memoir suffused with gratitude, joy, and beauty.
Reading this book feels like sitting down for tea with a well-loved neighbor or family member. One minute you’re just talking about normal life, then an intriguing passing comment surfaces about the time she accidentally killed her dog or got chased by a rabid skunk. Next thing you know you’re hearing the kind of colorful childhood story that gets passed around for years until it’s practically legend. Now imagine a whole book of stories like that, artfully woven together around a theme of grace and family, home and longing.
...artfully woven together around a theme of grace and family, home and longing.Jen Rose Yokel
But Margie isn’t asking us to marvel at her poor circumstances. It’s her personal history, and she tells it in plain language, with honesty, humor, strength, and warmth. And while it might seem like a hard times memoir on the surface, she shows a lovely ability to grieve what wasn’t while celebrating what was — good food, hospitality with her rural neighbors, the joy of books and horses. Each chapter is begins with a quick vignette about northern Minnesota’s natural surroundings and ends with a family recipe, and these brief interludes enhance the sense of place in the stories.
The Exact Place is real hidden treasure from small publisher Kalos Press. If you enjoy writers like Wendell Berry, Scott Russell Sanders, or Annie Dillard, consider adding this memoir to your winter reading list.
Jen was born and raised in central Florida, but now lives in the strange land of southern New England. Her words have appeared in TS Poetry’s Every Day Poems, CCM Magazine, and other publications, and she recently released her first poetry collection Ruins & Kingdoms. Some of her favorite things include used bookstores, good coffee, messing about in the kitchen, and local adventures with her husband Chris.