Busch, son of accomplished American writer Frederick Busch, began writing letters home from Iraq, where he found his true voice and began recording memories that make up much of this memoir.
Rather than organizing his memoir chronologically, Busch chooses to frame the book with chapters named after elements like water, metal, wood and stone — the very same elements that he came into contact with during his explorations as a child. The author seamlessly weaves his stories throughout these chapters, creating a running narrative that is often hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking and always fascinating.
The author’s experiences, though very personal, are also meant to serve as universal rites of passage that many readers can relate to. What become apparent are the many similarities between the youthful narrator and the man he has become. And a major theme is the harsh discovery that the author is not as indestructible as he once believed. In telling of his own discovery of mortality, he reminds us of our own and of our need to be constantly awake and aware.
In the end, the author recounts the passing of both his parents and the birth of his child. As he recognizes life’s frailties, Benjamin Busch tells us we must pay tribute to our past and celebrate the present with new discoveries to be made each day. And though our time here might be fleeting, this book calls out to every one of us to savor the lives we call our own. Grade: A+