“I’ve never believed that living in one place means being one thing all the time, condemned like Minnie Pearl to wear the same hat for every performance. Life is more complicated than that.” In this remarkable book of days, John Hildebrand charts the overlapping rings—home, town, countryside—of life in the Midwest. Like E. B. White, Hildebrand locates the humor and drama in ordinary life: church suppers, Friday night football, outdoor weddings, garden compost, family reunions, roadside memorials, camouflage clothing. In these wry, sharply observed essays, the Midwest isn’t The Land Time Forgot but a more complicated (and vastly more interesting) place where the good life awaits once we figure exactly out what it means. From his home range in northwestern Wisconsin, Hildebrand attempts to do just that by boiling down a calendar year to its rich marrow of weather, animals, family, home—in other words, all the things that matter.
About the Author
John Hildebrand is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire. He is the author of Reading the River: A Voyage Down the Yukon, Mapping the Farm: A Family Chronicle, and A Northern Front: New & Selected Essays, and his articles and essays have appeared in Harper’s magazine, Audubon, Sports Illustrated, Outside, The Best American Sports Writing—1999, and The Missouri Review. He has been awarded a Minnesota Book Award, Banta Award from the Wisconsin Library Association, Bush Fellowship, Wisconsin Arts Board Fellowship, and a Friends of American Libraries Award.
No writer has challenged—and sharpened—my ‘sense of place’ more than John Hildebrand. Throughout these essays—rooted in Wisconsin but relevant the whole world wide—the heart wrestles the mind, and both emerge strengthened. We are lucky to have this man writing on our behalf.(Michael Perry, New York Times bestselling author of Visiting TomandPopulation 485)
In the tradition of Annie Dillard and Aldo Leopold, the elegant chapters of John Hildebrand’s The Heart of Things comprise a spiritual autobiography set forth in terms of nature and community. Full of peace and notice and quiet moral authority, this beautiful book demonstrates what it means to pick a world and become a citizen of it.(Lorrie Moore, New York Times bestselling author of A Gate at the Stairs and Bark)
This work is not just heartwarming;it is also instructive. A celebrated creative writer, Hildebrand...not only understands the Midwest and makes it understandandable to those who do not live here, but he also teaches midwesterners to be curious about and reflect on the richmeanings of their own lives. He conveys the honest emotions that are the heart of things. (Barbara J. Dilly, The Annals of Iowa)
Where the Heart of Things could easily veer into sentimentality, Hildebrand brings his prose back down to earth. He writes, "Every face within the campfire's glow belongs to someone I've known the better part of my life.I'd tell them how much they mean to me except it would spoil the mood, so I crack another beer instead." Emotional and restrained, humorous and solemn, open-minded and opinionated, this book is a complex and charming as the Midwest itself. (Elizabeth Wyckoff, Wisconsin People & Ideas)
What impresses me most about The Heart of Things is Hildebrand’s power of observation, especially in those passages dealing with the natural world— the vivid details with which he describes something as surprising as a snapping turtle in the road, for example, or as commonplace as lilacs in a field; from the intricate patterns of deer or dobsonflies to fishing, before it “became a branch of applied electronics.” (Mark Vinz, Middle West Review)
...a beautiful book that I think every Wisconsinte should consider reading. With little fanfare and tons and tons of beautiful adjectives, Hildebrand shares his journeys of being so present in the moment I found it hard to stop reading...It's what brings this book together, the weaving of sight and sound, of water dripping off oars, eagle's wings taking flight, of a river flowing away, how the horizon sits low and hope is found in every sunrise.(Jay Gilbertson, Dunn County News)