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Books: Season of the Body

Cover of Season of the Body

"The body knows a language the mind never wholly masters." In this remarkable debut collection—essentially a memoir in essay form—Brenda Miller creates an autobiography centered on the body. Single and unable to bear children of her own, Miller details a life in relationship to the extended human family, a journey that traverses realms physical, emotional, and spiritual.

Organically shaped, never forced, these award-winning essays arrive with the pleasant snap of physical detail and leave with unforgettable insights on birth, prayer, and human resilience. Nurturing, yet uncommonly honest, Season of the Body articulates the unspoken losses, the desires held deep in the mute chambers of the heart.

Recommended by Philip Levine in Ploughshares.

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Reviews

Season of the Body is the graceful accumulation of a patient soul and an attentive eye. Brenda Miller has created an elegant collection of essays born out of blood, bone, and flesh. Her Language is organic and sensual: the kind of authentic prose that can only be crafted out of an authentic life. This is a book of great beauty by a writer whose work meets the world at a critical time when we are praying for illumination. Brenda Miller's voice is a beacon of light.
—Terry Tempest Williams

Season of the Body is calm and lovely, occasionally brokenhearted, always clear-eyed, about loss and the primordial importance of touching one another while recovering. It is about physicality and love, hands-on repair and continuing. This book is a gift both useful and beautiful. Brenda Miller should be thanked for it every day.
—William Kittredge

Names, lineage, the dark history of the body, even the promise of a transcendent body carried within her bones—all of these, Brenda Miller meditates upon in a prose that sacrifices none of its lyricism for its breath-catching honesty. Miller shows us that a love of language is not merely the province of the poet, but that in the hands of a skillful and original prose writer, the essay becomes, in its own fashion, an ode, an elegy, a sonnet, a sestina. With this debut, Miller takes her place in the first ranks of contemporary prose writers.
—Robin Hemley

These sensuous, memorable essays are an inquiry into what it is to be a body in a world of bodies, an alert, receptive, physical woman moving through interlocking realms of culture, geography, and spirit. "It's not just the animal body I want," Brenda Miller writes, "the mathematics of sex, the coupling: I want another heart, an extra one, a contrabassoon to echo my everyday pulse." And these essays are, in a way, just that: the inner life captured in language, a pulse captured on the page.
—Mark Doty

"With graceful, mirror-sharp detail, Miller recounts her life, story by story. This is an honest, compelling memoir of one woman's unique experiences, from sex to illness to having children—or not. The book's innovative structure adds to its intimate, conversational tone."
—Utne Reader

"Bellingham Review editor Miller's debut essays are elegant examples of life considered not theatrically or oppressively, but as a glistening, sensuous, and respectful tracking of intentions and acts."
—Kirkus Reviews

"Elegant yet powerful works. . . Whether she's contemplating a lover, landscape, or photograph, Miller handles prose as though it were a living body, searching gently but firmly for the source of the pain in order to release the incandescence of truth and wisdom."
—Donna Seaman, Booklist

"Her work in the creative nonfiction genre allows her to combine body memory with intellectual memory, creating personal essays that reflect one woman's spiritual and cultural experience. . . . The resulting essays are memorable for their sensuality and unflinching honesty."
—Library Journal

"In this collection of affecting and thought-provoking essays, Miller. . . addresses how so many people try to move determinedly forward in their lives, but often find themselves 'doubling back' and 'playing out the same plots again and again.' Likewise, the forward motion of each of these essays tends to loop back and revisit themes of love, loss, loneliness and healing."
—Publishers Weekly

"Brenda Miller is a poetic, near flawless, classical prose writer. Her essays flow like water over terrain both personal and universal, and reading them is a pleasure akin to sitting in a sun-soaked mountain meadow."
—Ara Taylor, The Bellingham Herald

"Miller listens for language, and has the rare capacity to hear it and relate it with grace and beauty. . . . Exquisite, delicate, wry noticing. . ."
—The Missoulian

"Of four new books by local writers, Season of the Body...shines the brightest....Miller's voice and mind are clear and self-possessed, whether she is speaking of tragedy, recalling the mixed religious messages of her childhood, reminiscing about her Brooklyn bubbe or mourning the end of a love affair."
—Diana Brement, The Jewish Transcript

"Miller explores the places in her life where spirit and flesh have mingled. The descendant of Eastern European Jews, Miller grew up in sunny California and, in her search for spiritual sustenance, eventually turned to the practices of Buddhism. But as she travels the world, Miller encounters the expectations and memories that her Jewish family's history and faith have left her. With refreshing candor Miller details her physical search among friends, lovers, occupations, and domiciles for a life that will satisfy her curious and observant nature."
—The Montanan

"...[H]er collection builds a very complete examination of self and world in their physical dimensions.... [L]yrically engaging pieces restore a breathtaking specificity to experiences of the body. . . ."
—Marya Place, Another Chicago Magazine