Post­cards from the Canyon

Lisa Gitlin By­wa­ter Books (DE­CEM­BER) Soft­cover $16.95 (360pp) 978-1-61294-111-0

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - AMANDA ADAMS

Gitlin’s writ­ing is sharp, in­fused with a dark, ir­rev­er­ent wit.

Post­cards from the Canyon, by Lisa Gitlin, is an en­gross­ing, poignant jour­ney through one woman’s past and present.

Faced with the re­cent and un­ex­pected death of her mother, dis­il­lu­sioned and heart­bro­ken writer Joanna Ja­cobs takes up the her­culean task of chron­i­cling her tu­mul­tuous up­bring­ing in 1960s Cleve­land, Ohio. The story shifts from past to present, comin­gling for­mer hurts and learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences with Joanna’s modern en­deavor to evade a psy­chi­atric eval­u­a­tion or­dered by the FBI.

A seem­ingly be­nign bomb threat to a con­ser­va­tive talk-show guest is what brings the feds to Joanna’s door, but it is soon re­vealed that she leads a life plagued by re­bel­lion and self-de­nial. Know­ingly gay, but un­will­ing to ex­pose her­self to scru­tiny and re­jec­tion, Joanna spends much of her young life fos­ter­ing chaos, even spend­ing some time in a psy­chi­atric ward.

The writ­ing ex­er­cise that be­gins as a means to re­flect and get her life back to­gether be­comes a jour­nal of Joanna’s con­sis­tently tu­mul­tuous sur­round­ings. Two life­long friends form a tan­gi­ble con­nec­tion to her past; they of­fer both so­lace and im­mense anger, mak­ing the de­tails of Joanna’s life even more dif­fi­cult to put to pa­per.

Although Joanna’s jour­ney is fic­tional and at times quite out­landish, it is struc­tured around real history. A snap­shot into a rapidly chang­ing world, Joanna’s ac­count is par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing be­cause, de­spite com­ing of age in a trans­for­ma­tive decade, she was still re­quired to nav­i­gate the ram­pant ho­mo­pho­bia and anti-semitism of her close-knit com­mu­nity.

Gitlin’s writ­ing is sharp, in­fused with a dark, ir­rev­er­ent wit. Joanna, de­spite her many foibles, is im­mensely dy­namic and lik­able. Her anger and rest­less­ness, caused by a life­time of dis­obe­di­ence, heartache, and op­pres­sion, is un­der­stand­able, even if some of her ac­tions are not.

Shifts in time and set­ting keep the story fresh. The present-day FBI plot is im­pres­sively main­tained through­out the novel, adding an ex­tra layer of dy­namism to an al­ready su­perb text.

Post­cards from the Canyon is a non­tra­di­tional com­ing-of-age story that shows that age doesn’t al­ways foster res­o­lu­tion and clar­ity.

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