In Narrow River, Wide Sky, Jenny Forrester traces her journey from growing up in a trailer in a small, conservative Colorado town to becoming a college-educated, feminist writer, and how that changes her relationships along the way. This is a moving memoir about how the influence of family can remain long after people drift apart, and how one never truly forgets the circumstances of one’s childhood.
Forrester’s relationship with her mother forms the core of the story; the book starts with the reveal that the author lost her mother early in adulthood, then reflects back on their relationship during her early years. As a girl, Forrester grows up steeped in the mythology of the pioneers in a rural area where men hunt deer for food, neighbors concern themselves with who in the area might be sinning, and spanking is still a preferred parenting tool. These scenes truly read as if from a work of literary fiction, with an excellent sense of place that makes the town into a character.
Forrester brings narrative immediacy to the rifts between her parents that lead to their separation and her moving away with her mother and brother. She writes a series of scenes that tell a lot about her sibling relationship—warm at times, but often a source of secrets or even casual cruelty. It’s clear early on that Forrester was something of a square peg in her rural environs.
Forrester also shares her experiences with a number of men, from her dismissive and often abusive high school boyfriend to the more stable life she eventually finds with her husband. She writes of her experiences with drugs, with religion, and with her own political awakening. All of this ties back to how she and her brother grew apart in many ways and brings the memoir full circle.
Forrester doesn’t gloss over the difficult parts of her life, but rather tells stories of how that adversity formed a stronger individual and a strong writer.
Jeff Fleischer, Foreword Reviews