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From the critically acclaimed author of the novel The Good Brother and memoir My Father the Pornographer, Same River Twice is the second volume from an American literary star. “If you haven't read Chris Offutt, you've missed an accomplished and compelling writer” (Chicago Tribune). At the age of nineteen, Chris Offutt had already been rejected by the army, the Peace Corps, From the critically acclaimed author of the novel The Good Brother and memoir My Father the Pornographer, Same River Twice is the second volume from an American literary star. “If you haven't read Chris Offutt, you've missed an accomplished and compelling writer” (Chicago Tribune). At the age of nineteen, Chris Offutt had already been rejected by the army, the Peace Corps, the park rangers, and the police. So he left his home in the Kentucky Appalachians and thumbed his way north—into a series of odd jobs and even stranger encounters with his fellow Americans. Fifteen years later, Offutt finds himself in a place he never thought he’d be: settled down with a pregnant wife. Writing from the banks of the Iowa River, where he came to rest, he intersperses the story of his youthful journeys with that of his journey to fatherhood in a memoir that is uniquely candid, occasionally brutal, and often wonderfully funny. As he reckons with the comforts and terrors of maturity, Offutt finally discovers what is best in life and in himself.


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From the critically acclaimed author of the novel The Good Brother and memoir My Father the Pornographer, Same River Twice is the second volume from an American literary star. “If you haven't read Chris Offutt, you've missed an accomplished and compelling writer” (Chicago Tribune). At the age of nineteen, Chris Offutt had already been rejected by the army, the Peace Corps, From the critically acclaimed author of the novel The Good Brother and memoir My Father the Pornographer, Same River Twice is the second volume from an American literary star. “If you haven't read Chris Offutt, you've missed an accomplished and compelling writer” (Chicago Tribune). At the age of nineteen, Chris Offutt had already been rejected by the army, the Peace Corps, the park rangers, and the police. So he left his home in the Kentucky Appalachians and thumbed his way north—into a series of odd jobs and even stranger encounters with his fellow Americans. Fifteen years later, Offutt finds himself in a place he never thought he’d be: settled down with a pregnant wife. Writing from the banks of the Iowa River, where he came to rest, he intersperses the story of his youthful journeys with that of his journey to fatherhood in a memoir that is uniquely candid, occasionally brutal, and often wonderfully funny. As he reckons with the comforts and terrors of maturity, Offutt finally discovers what is best in life and in himself.

30 review for The Same River Twice: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Howard

    “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." -- Heraclitus ON THE ROAD Chris Offutt quit high school and decided to join the military. Even though he was underage his parents signed the necessary papers that would have allowed him to be inducted into the army. He failed the physical. He was then denied admittance into the Peace Corps and subsequently was turned down as a park ranger, fireman, and policeman. Since his hometown in the Kentucky Ap “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." -- Heraclitus ON THE ROAD Chris Offutt quit high school and decided to join the military. Even though he was underage his parents signed the necessary papers that would have allowed him to be inducted into the army. He failed the physical. He was then denied admittance into the Peace Corps and subsequently was turned down as a park ranger, fireman, and policeman. Since his hometown in the Kentucky Appalachians was “a zip code with a creek,” there weren’t many employment prospects and his future was bleak. Now nineteen-years old, he decided to do what any red-blooded, small-town, All-American southern boy would do in his situation. He went to New York to become an actor. He gave up acting without ever acting and decided to become a writer; then a playwright; then a poet. Unfortunately, he never got around to writing a play or a poem. He did, however, write. He religiously wrote most every day in a journal in which he described his wanderings and wonderings and the people that he encountered. “I had freedom to write in my journal, a practice that slowly began to supersede every aspect of my life. As long as I was able to record events, my shoddy circumstances didn’t matter. I began making outlandish statements to passersby simply to provoke a response worthy of logging.” That journal, no doubt, became important source material for this memoir. ON THE ROAD AGAIN As one might imagine, things did not work out in New York and Offutt reacted by hitting the road. For more than a decade he traveled, primarily by thumb, in a great circle beginning and ending on the east coast. His wanderings found him attempting to survive in the underbelly of America by taking whatever job was available, some of them lasting only a day. Most of the people he encountered seemed to be a half bubble off plumb, but he didn’t seem to mind and was totally at ease with most of them. After all, they were being entered into his journal. There is much humor in the account of his travels, most of it at his own expense. FATHERHOOD Alternating with the chapters about his past wanderlust are more serious contemporary ones dealing with his wife’s pregnancy. At his wife’s urging he had applied to a number of writing schools. The University of Iowa was the first to accept. He and his wife rented a cabin located on the Iowa River and it was there that Offutt was forced to face the prospect of becoming a father. These chapters find Offutt seeking solitude in the woods, much as he had back home in Kentucky. It is here that he writes lyrical passages in which he describes the flora and fauna that he observes. But it is also here that he expresses doubts about whether he has what it takes to be a parent. The coming of age narrative is at times laugh-out-loud funny. On the other hand, the chapters set in the present are the subdued meditations of a first time father contemplating the future and wondering if he is up to what it has in store for him.

  2. 4 out of 5

    J.K. Grice

    My brother started classes at the University of Iowa in 1973. He didn't make the 3 hour trip back home very often but sometimes when he did, he hitchhiked. I was only 9 years old and the idea of him hitchhiking always seemed strange and mysterious to me. Anyway, I'm glad he stayed safe and maybe sometime I'll ask him if he remembers any stories from thumbing the rural roads of Iowa. My brother was a mere hitchhiking novice compared to native Kentuckian, Chris Offutt. Between the ages of 19 and 3 My brother started classes at the University of Iowa in 1973. He didn't make the 3 hour trip back home very often but sometimes when he did, he hitchhiked. I was only 9 years old and the idea of him hitchhiking always seemed strange and mysterious to me. Anyway, I'm glad he stayed safe and maybe sometime I'll ask him if he remembers any stories from thumbing the rural roads of Iowa. My brother was a mere hitchhiking novice compared to native Kentuckian, Chris Offutt. Between the ages of 19 and 31, Offutt thumbed rides and worked odd jobs from New York City to Minneapolis to California to Alabama, and finally landed on the east coast again in Boston. Then he hitched to Florida for good measure. He kept a journal along the way, and went from wanting to be an actor, to then declaring himself a playwright, and then thirdly deciding he was a poet (he never wrote one poem). Offutt wrote and wrote and wrote in his journal at a fever pitch, and that's what finally became material for his real career. His sordid and wild adventures that spanned locales across the country would be worthy of a Cohen brothers film. Along with plenty of WTF moments reminiscent of the quirkiest Paul Mazursky movies. In THE SAME RIVER TWICE, Chris Offutt writes some beautiful prose about nature and people. His style reminds me of a young Jim Harrison, coupled with some of the strangeness of Tom McGuane. And, Offutt is laugh-out-loud funny to boot. He alternates his American odyssey chapters with chapters about his pregnant wife and his impending fatherhood. They are both in their 30's and at this point in time (1992?), live in a rented cabin along the Iowa River, near Iowa City. In these sections, Offutt digests, philosophizes on, and over analyzes just about everything to do with pregnancy and the birth of his first child. I kept thinking, "Does this guy think he's the first man to ever have a kid?!" I really believe he went a little overboard at times, but it was still well written. I also found it interesting that Chris never mentions his career or attending college, but his wife, Rita, has a career as a psychologist. She remains in the cabin each day during the later stages of her pregnancy, while Offutt goes for long walks in the woods. He spends countless hours outdoors contemplating the meaning of fatherhood through his observations of birds, deer, animal tracks, and the natural world in general. His prose is fascinating and enigmatic, but I kept saying to myself, "You have a kid on the way man....shouldn't you be thinking about money and a job instead of spending all day lost in the trees?" Well, everything worked out for Chris and Rita in the end. This was Chris Offutt's second book, and I would like to read one of his more recent novels, as well as his most recent memoir, My Father, the Pornographer. This guy is an original for sure!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Melki

    Each footstep alters the earth. While waiting for the birth of his first child, Chris Offutt roams the Iowa countryside surrounding his home, reflecting on his past, musing about the present and nervously pondering the future. Admitting that he comes from a long line of bad fathers, the urge to flee is ever present in Offutt's mind. Since leaving his Eastern Kentucky home at age nineteen, he vowed always to own my time. But what may have begun as a journey of self-discovery turned into a decade Each footstep alters the earth. While waiting for the birth of his first child, Chris Offutt roams the Iowa countryside surrounding his home, reflecting on his past, musing about the present and nervously pondering the future. Admitting that he comes from a long line of bad fathers, the urge to flee is ever present in Offutt's mind. Since leaving his Eastern Kentucky home at age nineteen, he vowed always to own my time. But what may have begun as a journey of self-discovery turned into a decade of bumming around across the U.S. Hitchhiking from place to place, Offutt worked a variety of jobs, from dishwasher to Everglades tour guide, before settling down in one spot with one woman. The book's chapters alternate between the author's relating of sometimes shadowy tales of his past, to his wanderings in nature while waiting for the baby to arrive. Many people are afraid of the woods but that's where I keep my fears. I visit them every day. The trees know me, the riverbank accepts my path. Alone in the woods, it is I who is gestating, preparing for life. I honestly didn't like this book at first. I resented what I felt was his lack of responsibility toward his expectant wife. And then I remembered . . . I recalled how I felt when I learned I was pregnant with my second child - not the first one, the second one. I spent almost a year trying to get pregnant the first time around, so that pregnancy was very desired, a relief, almost. There were no problems and the baby, after the first few months, anyway, was a joy. But, I was ambivalent about another go-round, completely uncertain I even wanted another baby. After all, I had this great kid who slept through the night and didn't suck up every single moment of my life. Why would I want to go back to sleepless nights and days spent as a milk-machine for a helpless infant? So, like Offutt, I took to roaming the outdoors, hanging out near my neighbor's pond, contemplating my impending loss of freedom. Nature can provide both consolation and guidance. Its beauty is filled with both life and death. It makes us take stock and face our fears. It offers proof that life goes on. To this day, I still head outside when I need to think. When reading Offutt's short story collections - Kentucky Straight: Stories and Out of the Woods: Stories, I was struck by his stunning descriptions of nature. In one story, he described how heavy rain "chewed at" the road, an image I've never forgotten. And, there's an abundance of lovely imagery here, but Offutt turns his eyes inside his own mind, as well. I admired his honesty when writing about his somewhat checkered past and in recalling his strained relationship with his father: Dad and I gulped our beer through a new gauze of respect. I'd stayed away, had never asked for money. His hair was white and he had a belly. He was losing his family to the outside world and there was no replacement. We drank another beer, discussing safe topics that neither of us cared about. He slowly realized that I would not rise to his bait, while I saw him as he was - a man unsure of how to face an adult son. He was stiffly cordial, treating me like an ambassador from an enemy country that had recently signed a treaty. In the end, there is little we can do but accept our circumstances. Whether we look to nature or others for answers, in the end, we make our own decisions. We strive to improve upon the work our parents did, and vow we will do things differently. Children who were once undesired arrive, and turn out to be, at least in my case, more loved than anyone thought possible. As Offutt discovered after the birth of his own child: Nothing had changed except everything.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Diane Barnes

    I didn't realize it when I picked this up, but it's a great read for Father 's Day. Chris Offutt wrote this memoir in 1993, after the birth of his first son. Chapters about his leaving home at 18 to travel the country by hitchhiking, working odd jobs, living hand to mouth, trying to find himself, are interspersed with chapters about the months of his wife's pregnancy and his feelings and fears of impending fatherhood. He finally "found himself" when his son was born, at which point, in his words I didn't realize it when I picked this up, but it's a great read for Father 's Day. Chris Offutt wrote this memoir in 1993, after the birth of his first son. Chapters about his leaving home at 18 to travel the country by hitchhiking, working odd jobs, living hand to mouth, trying to find himself, are interspersed with chapters about the months of his wife's pregnancy and his feelings and fears of impending fatherhood. He finally "found himself" when his son was born, at which point, in his words, he entered adullthood. I have read some of Offutt's short stories and magazine articles and enjoyed them. This was a great introduction to the real man and his quest to become a writer. Important takeaway from this book: NEVER HITCHHIKE!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Diener

    Terrific little book. A pleasurable read of not quite 200 pages that I did not want to put down. I keep a little wire bound spiral in which I occasionally jot down passages from books I am reading. There is no criteria. The passages just have to strike me, to communicate with me in a way that most prose does not. While reading "The Same River Twice" I jotted down a number of passages, two of which I will share: "She dressed with bold sensuality while obeying the confines of decorum. Cleavage was Terrific little book. A pleasurable read of not quite 200 pages that I did not want to put down. I keep a little wire bound spiral in which I occasionally jot down passages from books I am reading. There is no criteria. The passages just have to strike me, to communicate with me in a way that most prose does not. While reading "The Same River Twice" I jotted down a number of passages, two of which I will share: "She dressed with bold sensuality while obeying the confines of decorum. Cleavage was a reminder, not an invitation." "The guts of America unfolded in every direction as I traveled the interstate bloodstream, dodging the white corpuscles of perverts, cops, and outlaws."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Izzy

    To Flow Through Change. Chris Offutt's Memoir, The Same River Twice, flows through his life. Stopping on the bank of different points of his life, The Same River Twice becomes both a coming of age story and reflection on parenthood. Gorgeously written with a balance of tasteful humor and real-world lessons, The Same River Twice, is a fantastic story one can read at the point in life. As a young adult just figuring the world out or a lost adult on the cusp of change, The Same River Twice has less To Flow Through Change. Chris Offutt's Memoir, The Same River Twice, flows through his life. Stopping on the bank of different points of his life, The Same River Twice becomes both a coming of age story and reflection on parenthood. Gorgeously written with a balance of tasteful humor and real-world lessons, The Same River Twice, is a fantastic story one can read at the point in life. As a young adult just figuring the world out or a lost adult on the cusp of change, The Same River Twice has lessons for everyone. I was first introduced the memoir, The Same River Twice, as an excerpt in the anthology A Garden of Forking Paths, which presents me chapter six. After reading the short, I knew I had to read the entirety of the memoir. What convinced me to read the memoir was how Offutt plays with time and narrative. The memoir begins with Offutt and his girlfriend, at the time, Rita moving to Iowa. Offutt decides to marry her and asks her three times before she says yes, well he tricks her into yes. Then the topic of children comes up, which Offutt is against writing; "A child struck me as the one ingredient that would ruin my hopes, forcing me into full-time employment. I told her this was the wrong time." (Kindle Locations 82-83). Eventually, Offutt decides that he loves Rita more than he hates the idea of having a child. This becomes the central conflict of the memoir, Offutt's acceptance of fatherhood. Just as Offutt is finding refuge in the woods from the thought of having a kid the next chapter starts us off reminiscing about his hometown and his childhood. The reminiscing of his youth is, personally, the best half of the book; perhaps because I am still young and haven't started the build a family half of my life. Offutt keeps a consistent one chapter per storyline. We have one section with Offutt as a soon to be father and one chapter as a young man. However, in his chapters as a young man is where I fell in love with The Same River Twice. Offutt is as a white man from a tiny town in Kentucky, so small that they share their zip code with the creek. Offutt wants to work; in fact, he is told by his parents after dropping out of high school to find work. After being rejected by the Army due to Albumin in his urine, he forced himself to go to University, after two years he dropped out and looked to New York. He was going to be an actor. In the city, he learns a lot about the world. He meets a Hispanic woman for the first time, has sex for the first time, meets a Trans Woman. In chapter two, right when he meets a Hispanic woman for the first time, he comes to a beautiful realization: "My culture had much in common with the Latin—loyalty to a family that was often large, respect for the elderly and for children, a sharp delineation between genders. The men were governed by a sense of machismo similar to that which ruled in the hills. There was one quite obvious drawback—to them I was just another white man."(Kindle Locations 256-259). This line work is one of my favorites. The connection between two cultures we consider to be from opposite worlds. The sentence structure mirroring the connection, the way he writes machismo as if it is both something to achieve and something to be wary of. There is something startlingly beautiful about this passage. About how Offutt learns his prejudices and his privileges. In the passages where he is a young man re-learning old biases, there is a quiet whisper that seems to be saying it’s okay, you're learning. The story seems to be so forgiving of his childish mistakes in a way that makes for a pleasant read. He makes mistakes, he insults people, and he learns better. It is as if Offutt is saying, it’s okay, go, learn, live. Make mistakes but by god learn to be better. In chapter six, my first introduction, Offutt has been wandering through the world as a homeless man. Finding work in cities then running away when someone got too close. The chapter is definitely my favorite, chapter two a close contender, the way he expresses this desire for something that seems so untenable, for something to happen so that he may feel accomplished touches intensely on how so many of us think about ourselves. The Chapters in which he is a soon to be father are no less compelling. Offutt struggles with understanding his place as the father. Being fiercely jealous of Ritas, his wife, attention to their unborn child, being unsure if he could be a good father. Wondering where he stands as a father. Offut writes in chapter five about a DNA test for the baby: "I was against the test, afraid that if our child turned out damaged, it would mean that I was too." (Kindle Locations 687-688). The book primarily seems to be Offutt almost arguing that he isn't a suitable candidate for being a father, while also forging a newfound understanding with his father as he begins this journey into fatherhood. Yet, as he is arguing this lack of abilities, he also seems to be acknowledging that no one is ready to be a parent. That parenthood is their own test, one that he had been looking for and unconsciously found. The entirety of the memoir is a nod to what we can change. To how our actions affect the world around us. The Same River Twice is a soft acknowledgment that our lives have meaning. When Offutt steps into the river behind his house, he reflects on how his footsteps have changed the bank, making it impossible to step into the same river twice. Our actions even change the world, for better or worst. The river becomes his place of refuge, one in which he uses to ponder of all the other rivers he visited, even those that are a methodical connection of two things. Two people. Him and the woman he first had sex with. Him and a father figure who killed himself, him and the first friend he made in a long time. Overall the memoir is a powerful piece of work in where everyone, regardless of where you are on your journey can pick up this novel and find something to connect with. The story of fatherhood and becoming a man have many parallels that Offutt brilliantly explores in a simple question of how long you fight the flow of change. Offutt, Chris. The Same River Twice: A Memoir. Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Abe Brennan

    In his memoir The Same River Twice, Chris Offut takes us on parallel journeys of both mind and body. In two interweaving storylines, we follow young Offut, as he travels the United States hoping to find a calling, and older Offut, a seasoned, settled, soon-to-be father. Each Offut thinks a lot, about a great many things, from the mundane—where am I going to sleep tonight?—to the profound—why am I here? Using present and past tense shifts to distinguish between narrative threads, Offut weaves a l In his memoir The Same River Twice, Chris Offut takes us on parallel journeys of both mind and body. In two interweaving storylines, we follow young Offut, as he travels the United States hoping to find a calling, and older Offut, a seasoned, settled, soon-to-be father. Each Offut thinks a lot, about a great many things, from the mundane—where am I going to sleep tonight?—to the profound—why am I here? Using present and past tense shifts to distinguish between narrative threads, Offut weaves a literary tapestry of descriptive prose, balancing his contemplative contemporary self with the naïve, questing, and reckless personality of his youth. This is honest writing, rife with startling metaphors and lyric intensity. We may not entirely feel comfortable with where Offut takes us emotionally, as some of his thoughts are downright distasteful in their human-frailty nakedness, but his willingness to write uncompromisingly about his life, feelings, fears, etc. earns our trust and, ultimately, admiration.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Luke Marshburn

    When Past and Present Collide Through The Same River Twice: A Memoir, Chris Offutt offers a dynamic work that employs a refreshing blend of past narrative and present reflection. Mastering voice, experimenting with form, and building memorable passages, he has created a work worthy of a gushing review. Before moving to the gush, I offer a word of caution to parents and the young: Offutt’s work is not only about fatherhood, but also about sexuality. Readers who disdain explicit depictions of sexual When Past and Present Collide Through The Same River Twice: A Memoir, Chris Offutt offers a dynamic work that employs a refreshing blend of past narrative and present reflection. Mastering voice, experimenting with form, and building memorable passages, he has created a work worthy of a gushing review. Before moving to the gush, I offer a word of caution to parents and the young: Offutt’s work is not only about fatherhood, but also about sexuality. Readers who disdain explicit depictions of sexual themes will remain outside of their comfort zones throughout the work. Those who enjoy such discussions will find The Same River Twice pleasurable. I reside in the middle of that spectrum, blushing at the exposition, but tolerating it. I find the discourse so well-crafted that it is worthy of the rating and review, blush or no. As mentioned, what makes the work powerful is the voice. The words hold an ironic flair throughout that pushes the humor of the situations, especially of the dark and unsavory ones. For example, in one scene the speaker feels “an absolute revulsion for work.” In an attempt to get fired from his job, he decides to wear “a plastic nose-and-glasses” while performing his duties as a waiter. “During the rush,” he says, “I removed my shirt and pants, wearing only undershorts, a white apron, and the giant nose. People left enormous tips.” Instead of losing his job, he’s forced to quit, which, as he discovers, “was the last way I had to prove the existence of my own free will” (136). Instead of offering a flat description about despising work and quitting, Offutt gives humor, chaos, and a failure to fail that makes the moment existential and memorable. Such moments are plentiful, the narrative rarely, if ever, slipping in its tone. The driving force of Offutt’s memoir is his use of a shifting perspective from present to past tense. When Offutt uses the present tense, he offers a sense of reflection. Beginning the work in the present, the speaker sets the scene by saying how he is “as alien” in the Midwest as he is “in a city” (9). This lack of belonging is a main theme of the work, the speaker searching for answers, a place in the world, a feeling of acceptance. As he is dealing with the prospect of having a child in the present, his fear of fatherhood is also a prominent theme. The speaker details his daily life, the progression of his wife’s pregnancy, his fears of failing his wife and offspring, and his solace in pondering existential quandaries while traipsing through the woods. Things happen in the present, but the focus is far less on the events and more about the pondering. In these sections, the speaker takes what’s occurring around him and uses it as a metaphor for his fears. For example, in one woodland walk, he finds discarded “freezer bags containing the skinned carcasses of small game,” which compare well in his mind to “an amnion holding a fetus” (87-88). This sets his mind on miscarriage. Reflecting on that fear and thinking through it, he eventually converts what he sees, which is carcasses being used as food for “Live game,” into an image of the “cycle” of life, similar to how “Rita and I are … giving ourselves to the world” by sacrificing their own comfort and safety to produce offspring (89). Such philosophical pondering drives the story forward towards the climax of the work, (view spoiler)[the birth of the child (hide spoiler)] . At the same time as moving forward, the story also continually flies backwards, interspersing chapters that work in the past between the present tense chapters. While maintaining a first person point of view, these chapters work much more like a novel than their reflective parallels. In this tense, Offutt offers a “coming of age” journey that uses the search for belonging as the overarching conflict, odd encounters throughout the speaker’s life driving him towards growth. The early years of the speaker’s life show him trying to find meaning through “the Peace Corps, park rangers, the ranks of firemen and police,” organizations that might offer “camaraderie” or a chance, he hopes, to “test myself in sanctioned ways against other men” (21). When these organizations deny him, he moves on to becoming a drifting hitchhiker, moving from city to city, job to job, roommate or lover to another. Finally, the narrative catches up to and surpasses its present parallels: The climax, that is, (view spoiler)[the baby's birth (hide spoiler)] , which is anticipated in the reflective passages, occurs in the past tense. From the novel perspective, this works to fulfill the journey, for it isn’t until the fears detailed in the reflections finally “spiraled away” (view spoiler)[at the birth of his child (hide spoiler)] that the speaker realizes his search for meaning is over (185). The epilogue, a final piece of present-moment significance, shows the speaker (view spoiler)[looking at his baby and (hide spoiler)] discovering that the search for belonging has been a search for maturity.(view spoiler)[ By having a child whom he will help steer to adulthood, he has in turn become an adult himself (188). (hide spoiler)] The intertwining of reflection and narrative is an especially powerful part of Offutt’s work, adding a depth and poignancy to the already deep situation of impending fatherhood. It’s a jarring approach, a dangerous one that, I believe, risks overwhelming the searching narrative with the reflective fears. Yet the masterful voice of irony applies a wry wit that balances the terror, lightening the darkness with genuine laughter. Because of this, the work comes out memorable, entertaining, and, for those who like reading the same book twice, a good candidate for rereading. ~Luke

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dorothea

    Author's wife/girlfriend is pregnant with their first child. He feels panicky and reminisces about his glory days as a drifter while mentally bracing himself to lose his freedom to parenthood. Author's wife/girlfriend is pregnant with their first child. He feels panicky and reminisces about his glory days as a drifter while mentally bracing himself to lose his freedom to parenthood.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Sheldon Compton

    Best memoir I've ever read. Best memoir I've ever read.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Laurie Neighbors

    Read this years ago. One of my favorites.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    A split memoir: one part I liked, the other not as much. While the telling about his wife's pregnancy and the birth of his child had some good points, I much preferred the other half, that of his wandering days on the road, especially his time with a circus, in the Everglades, and as a bagman in Minneapolis. I could never had enjoyed living on the edge as he did, even back then, yet I find it interesting to hear these stories, best when well told. I wouldn't include Offutt in my most-favored aut A split memoir: one part I liked, the other not as much. While the telling about his wife's pregnancy and the birth of his child had some good points, I much preferred the other half, that of his wandering days on the road, especially his time with a circus, in the Everglades, and as a bagman in Minneapolis. I could never had enjoyed living on the edge as he did, even back then, yet I find it interesting to hear these stories, best when well told. I wouldn't include Offutt in my most-favored authors list, yet I do like and have enjoyed his stories.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paige Gardner

    Simply could not put this book down. Every sentence is beautiful, intentional, and serves a purpose. Offutt has had an incredibly interesting and unique young adult life, but an even greater talent for writing and sharing it with the world. Really glad I stumbled across this hidden gem at a library sale, I wish to share it with many.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Julie Ricks

    I've b ecome a fan of Offutt since I first read him a year ago. He's a prize-winning memoirist, my genre, and he has a unique voice and perspective. This book alternated between his gypsy-like 20s and 30s, with his present day (at time of publication) waiting for his first son to be born. It's a great juxtaposition between the man-child and the man-in-waiting. Lovely, lyrically written story. I've b ecome a fan of Offutt since I first read him a year ago. He's a prize-winning memoirist, my genre, and he has a unique voice and perspective. This book alternated between his gypsy-like 20s and 30s, with his present day (at time of publication) waiting for his first son to be born. It's a great juxtaposition between the man-child and the man-in-waiting. Lovely, lyrically written story.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    This is a personal and unvarnished memoir alternating between the author’s vagabond youth and as a married man awaiting the birth of his first child. Funny and poignant with beautifully descriptive passages.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Matt Kovalcik

    Wanderlust and fatherhood, what two better concepts to be examining at once...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Spradling

    Plenty of color and humor - may be over the top or crude for some but I enjoyed the mix of past adventures juxtaposed by the preparation and anxiety of the arrival of first child.

  18. 5 out of 5

    David Hughes

    Great Read. First I have read by this author. Fun adventure and interesting insights into fatherhood and growing up. I will read his others.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Brad Erickson

    3.5 stars. Crazy story. The parts about his wife's pregnancy I glided through; the rest was riveting and hilarious. 3.5 stars. Crazy story. The parts about his wife's pregnancy I glided through; the rest was riveting and hilarious.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Colin Brightwell

    4.5 stars.

  21. 4 out of 5

    L. Hewitt

    It's fast paced and intense, and definitely a fun read. It's fast paced and intense, and definitely a fun read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Beryl

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Same River Twice: A Memoir .

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Garrison

    About a quarter through the book, Offutt quotes Heraclitius, from ancient Greece, “You can’t step into the same river twice.†(54) Yet, metaphorically that’s what Offutt attempts to do, to step into the same river twice. This book tells of him leaving the security of home for a decade of wandering, and then finally settling down in his own home as with his wife who’s pregnant with his first born child. Again, there is stability in his life, yet the river remains, connecting him to the l About a quarter through the book, Offutt quotes Heraclitius, from ancient Greece, “You can’t step into the same river twice.†(54) Yet, metaphorically that’s what Offutt attempts to do, to step into the same river twice. This book tells of him leaving the security of home for a decade of wandering, and then finally settling down in his own home as with his wife who’s pregnant with his first born child. Again, there is stability in his life, yet the river remains, connecting him to the larger world. In telling his story, Offutt alternates between his wife’s pregnancy and his years on the loose. Offutt begins his journey in his Kentucky home in the hills of Appalachia. He acknowledges that the popular view of Appalachia is less than flattering, “a land where every man is willing, at the drop of a proverbial overall strap, to shoot, fight, or f—k anything on hind legs. We’re men who buy half-pints of bootlegged liquor and throw the lids away in order to finish the whiskey in one laughing, brawling night, not carrying where we wake or how far from home…. The truth is a hair different,†he confesses. (19-20) Offutt’s first stop is New York City, a place he describes as having half the people being crazy and the rest being therapists. (36) While in the big city, Offutt, in good southerly fashion, defends a homeless woman that’s being harassed. After the incident, they get together and he discovers that she isn’t a she. He flees, and later hooks up with a black woman who serves as his mentor. In a way, this sounds tripe and a bit racist, a southern boy shocked at the big city and then learning the ways of the world from a black girl, but Offutt pulls it off well. Offutt describes sex using the analogy of sharpening a knife against a whetstone and as a baseball game. (And no, he doesn’t credit Meatloaf, whose song, "Paradise by the Dashboard Lights," also describes making love as stealing home in a baseball game.) Offutt’s crisscrosses the country in this travels, stopping for a while in Minneapolis, Boston, and Flamingo, Florida. He does a stint with a circus travelling through the South. He notes that “Kentucky produced both Abe Lincoln and Jeff Davis.†And like his ancestors from the Civil War, Offutt see’s himself being loyal to no direction.†(109) Along the way, he identifies himself with Daniel Boone and Christopher Columbus, always striking out for what’s new, yet both whose lives ended up less that happy. It seems Offutt is following in their footstep. Each new location gives him opportunity for more adventures and misadventures: opportunities for drinking, drug use and experiencing life from the bottom of society. At one point, he notes that “like rotgut and rainfall,†he’d found his lowspot.†(160) He goes home for his brother’s wedding where he’s confronted for his lack of goals and finds himself feeling inferior, yet he also realizes that he’s the loved son and that his brother, by staying home and working hard, has been trying to earn the approval of the family. (120f) Along the way, Offutt makes observations about life. He describes the human race as Icarus, “with melting wax and loss of altitude†(131) and the “underclass of evolution.†(133) His salvation comes from meeting Rita, his wife and the princess that helps him rise into respectability. With his wife’s prodding, he applies and accepted into the Iowa Writer’s School (obviously Offutt left out the schooling he’d picked up along the way as he’d quit school to go on the road). At the end of his book, like most new fathers, he’s excited and tells about it as if he’s the first to experience such joy, but also aware of the responsibility of he has and hoping to break his family’s mold of bad fathers. I enjoyed this book. Although I’ve managed to avoid many of Offutt’s low spots, I found myself relating to the way Offutt explores what it means to become a man and a father and, as he travels around, he sees himself tied to the land and linked to history. I also agree with one of his mentors who remarked, “The West wasn’t tamed, it was corralled for slaughter.†(67) And finally, like Offutt, I want to hibernate in summer and get restless to strike out for new territories when the weather turns chilly. (54)

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Chatelain

    Chris Offutt's The Same River Twice is an interesting novel which details the course of his life, past and present intertwined and alternating between chapters. Offutt was born and raised in Kentucky and spends the rest of the novel in an attempt to escape from the standard expectations of life while still searching for a connection to nature which parallels that of his birthplace. Offutt's mastery of prose is displayed in the way he conveys the story of his life. As opposed to simply providing Chris Offutt's The Same River Twice is an interesting novel which details the course of his life, past and present intertwined and alternating between chapters. Offutt was born and raised in Kentucky and spends the rest of the novel in an attempt to escape from the standard expectations of life while still searching for a connection to nature which parallels that of his birthplace. Offutt's mastery of prose is displayed in the way he conveys the story of his life. As opposed to simply providing a straight-forward narrative about past events and how they've contributed to his current lifestyle, Offutt spins his tale as a series of alternating passages which shift between the present of recent years of his life in contrast with the stories woven from the journal entries of his past. This creates a discrepancy throughout the novel in that the past remains loosely connected while the passages of the present hold a strong connection up until the conclusion of the novel, in which both past and present narratives link together on a similar concept to provide a sense of clarity. This emphasizes the vast amount of confusion and insecurity which linger throughout both periods of his life, continuing to haunt him until he accepts the uncertainty of his future as a first-time father as opposed to constantly worrying over the ways in which he'll be unfit as a parent, or the ways in which the child will constrain his on life and writing. At the same time Offutt's The Same River Twice takes on the semblance of an adventure story which details his travels across the United States. Several times Offutt has made direct comparisons between himself and 18th century frontiersman Daniel Boone, as if Offutt too were a pioneer of a new age. His original frontier is the boundary of Kentucky until he comes of age, setting off to travel aimlessly between New York, California, and Florida, seeking only a place in life which fits him, all the while abandoning positions offered to him at a whim when responsibility attempts to keep him tied down to a specific area. At the same time, Offutt comments on an additional frontier- the understanding off one's self, realizing one's identity and coming to terms with the bitterness of life in order to advance, an idea he only comes to understand when fatherhood draws near. The Same River Twice expounds heavily on Offut's naturalist beliefs as well, displaying his great admiration for the land while highlighting his disdain of city life, the abuse of the land and the uncertainty and lack of inspiration he suffers from while away from nature. In stating "Our species is becoming Icarus with melting wax and loss of altitude,"(131) Offutt expresses how our ambition for "improving" our own lives with technology comes at the expense of losing sight of the dangers we wreak on nature, creating "land rendered impotent by men" (131). Overall Offutt manages to create a magnificent novel which draws its readers in with the insane exploits of his wandering life, and his immense uncertainty as he comes to terms with a future as a father with little belief in his ability to care for a child.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    My friend has raved about Chris Offutt for so long and I finally got around to reading one of his books. Happy Angie? This memoir is structured by alternating chapters of two ongoing narratives. One is the pregnancy of his wife, the birth of his first child and the expectancy, anxiety and soul-searching that comes with first-time parenthood. The other story is also about a birth of sorts, the birth of the author as a writer, following a long gestation period of experience, observation and journa My friend has raved about Chris Offutt for so long and I finally got around to reading one of his books. Happy Angie? This memoir is structured by alternating chapters of two ongoing narratives. One is the pregnancy of his wife, the birth of his first child and the expectancy, anxiety and soul-searching that comes with first-time parenthood. The other story is also about a birth of sorts, the birth of the author as a writer, following a long gestation period of experience, observation and journaling while rambling around various regions of the U.S., living a meager existence on sporadic, low wage jobs and meeting characters that must be read to be believed. Eventually the two narratives cross in Offutt's early thirties when he meets his wife Rita who encourages him to pursue his writing career more seriously. Becoming a father is understandably a major turning point in his life and for someone who has experienced things most people haven't and who is afraid of very little, it is the most terrifying event of his life, but also the greatest of all if his adventures. I read this book very slowly and took the time to enjoy Chris Offutt's beautiful and well-crafted writing. I also enjoyed his descriptions of living a long the Iowa river near Iowa City. I could picture it perfectly as I have lived in the area my whole life.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel

    Writers writing about writing, or writing about thinking about writing is one of my favorite subjects for stories and novels and, while I haven't read a lot of memoirs, it doesn't seem as interesting in the memoir form as it does in the novel. (Just an opinion) What works well is the way offut moves from the past to the present meandering through his past and trying to navigate his present, showing us the similarity of his past to his present while reminding us you can't put your foot in the sam Writers writing about writing, or writing about thinking about writing is one of my favorite subjects for stories and novels and, while I haven't read a lot of memoirs, it doesn't seem as interesting in the memoir form as it does in the novel. (Just an opinion) What works well is the way offut moves from the past to the present meandering through his past and trying to navigate his present, showing us the similarity of his past to his present while reminding us you can't put your foot in the same river twice. It's a coming of age story that should speak to a lot of guys I know. This guy has written some great short stories. I feel like I'm watching the man who wrote those stories just kinda kicking around in the woods. I can't help but feel attached. I can't help but feel hope. It made me want to live on the iowa river. To stop my drifting. I'm five miles away.

  27. 4 out of 5

    todd

    Offutt constructs an autobiography by alternating chapters on the pregnancy and birth of his first child with chapters narrating lurid events from the first dozen years or so of his adulthood. Think of a CD where the cuts bounce between ballads and punk rock. It may not sound like it would work, but the more intimate moments with his wife probably would not stand alone as a compelling story, and many readers would simply get worn out reading nonstop about a goof ball drifter who plays at being c Offutt constructs an autobiography by alternating chapters on the pregnancy and birth of his first child with chapters narrating lurid events from the first dozen years or so of his adulthood. Think of a CD where the cuts bounce between ballads and punk rock. It may not sound like it would work, but the more intimate moments with his wife probably would not stand alone as a compelling story, and many readers would simply get worn out reading nonstop about a goof ball drifter who plays at being creative. The average works out pretty well. Fathers can probably relate to this book more than other men, and all women. Offutt is a careful, sometimes lyrical, word smith and the chapter on the traveling circus and the Parrot Lady leaves images that are worth the price of admission.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Kat Saunders

    I feel like there was a lot to like and admire in this book. There's humor and the chapter on his time at the circus was especially well-written. The rest of the book didn't quite match up, and some of the writing on women, queer people, and people of color was cringe-inducing at best. The narrator didn't seem to exhibit much emotional growth, but then there's a giant leap and in a span of roughly 10 pages, he meets his wife and settles down. A lot seems to be missing from that story. What reall I feel like there was a lot to like and admire in this book. There's humor and the chapter on his time at the circus was especially well-written. The rest of the book didn't quite match up, and some of the writing on women, queer people, and people of color was cringe-inducing at best. The narrator didn't seem to exhibit much emotional growth, but then there's a giant leap and in a span of roughly 10 pages, he meets his wife and settles down. A lot seems to be missing from that story. What really led to drifter to become a husband and eventual father? That's not on the page--not really. Still, there are some interesting observations on fatherhood, and he renders the natural world beautifully. On a different day, I may have rated this 4 stars.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie Jean

    This book is well written, with beautiful analogies and metaphors throughout. I appreciate his writing. The storyline flips back and forth between his days as a drifter and his current situation, with a pregnant wife. I found it hard to relate to a protagonist who spent much of his life wandering around aimlessly--including the present moment, when his wife his expecting while working full time, yet his primary goal in life seems to be disappearing on walks and thinking about things while unempl This book is well written, with beautiful analogies and metaphors throughout. I appreciate his writing. The storyline flips back and forth between his days as a drifter and his current situation, with a pregnant wife. I found it hard to relate to a protagonist who spent much of his life wandering around aimlessly--including the present moment, when his wife his expecting while working full time, yet his primary goal in life seems to be disappearing on walks and thinking about things while unemployed. With so little grounding this character to anything, I found it difficult for him to hold my interest either.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kate Cronin

    I found this author because he was referenced in one of the food blogs I read. His writing on food and cooking was really interesting so I wanted to see what else he had written. His online work that got me intrigued is here: http://www.oxfordamerican.org/magazin... and http://www.oxfordamerican.org/magazin... book is one of two memoirs he's written - the chapters alternate between his life after leaving the Appalachian Mountains in KY and his (at the time) current life about to have his first c I found this author because he was referenced in one of the food blogs I read. His writing on food and cooking was really interesting so I wanted to see what else he had written. His online work that got me intrigued is here: http://www.oxfordamerican.org/magazin... and http://www.oxfordamerican.org/magazin... book is one of two memoirs he's written - the chapters alternate between his life after leaving the Appalachian Mountains in KY and his (at the time) current life about to have his first child with his wife living in Iowa City IA.

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