Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Book Review: 'A Well-Respected Man' by David W. Berner

Having read and been deeply moved by David's ANY ROAD WILL TAKE YOU THERE, this reader wrote the following: ‘Chicago author David W. Berner has been around the block - he is an award-winning journalist, writer, documentarian, and an associate professor at Columbia College Chicago where he teaches Writing for Radio, Radio Storytelling, and Radio/Audio Documentary in the Radio Department at CCC. His essays and his books are highly respected and highly consumed. His honors includes Writer-in-Residence at the Jack Kerouac Project in Orlando, Florida, the Ernest Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, Illinois, and has been recognized for his literary and artistic achievements by the Chicago Public Library Foundation at the 2016 Carl Sandburg Literary Awards. In his words, `I first experienced how important a writing space could be when I was given the opportunity to be the writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, Florida. It's the modest home he lived with his mother after all the attention of On the Road, and where he wrote The Dharma Bums. The three-month experience of writing in such a revered place, allowed for a renewed attention to "place" in a story. Setting can be as much a character in a work as the voices heard in those spaces. When I started writing Any Road Will Take You There: A Journey of Fathers and Sons, my memoir of a 5000-mile road trip and the struggles and triumphs of fatherhood, I rediscovered the importance of space, setting, and place. Where the story happens, why it happens in that location, in that house, on that road is crucial to the story. Each of the stops along the long journey in Any Road Will Take You There evokes a memory, a moment that fuels the trip and the story. Just like the places where I write, the places in my stories have meaning, something true and honest and revealing.'

David’s new novel is equally impressive, that rare combination of involving story with philosophical questions of how we travel through life with the many interruptions and split second decisions that alter our journey. As the synopsis distills: ` Professor Martin Gregory is a respected Chicago writer. After falling in love with a student and eventually losing both her and his job, he moves to the English countryside to re-balance his life. Is his character strong enough to confront what he discovers there, or will he run from his biggest challenge? Chicago Professor Martin Gregory is the author of a critically acclaimed novel of love and longing, a cult favorite among women. The book brings him unexpected status and prestige, but also unwelcome fame. A love affair with one of his students derails his career and breaks his heart. Coming to terms with a life knocked off balance, Martin retreats to a quiet English village, only to be confronted at his flat by a mystery woman with an unexpected message and an implausible request, one that could alter his life forever. A cross-country train trip, a visit to his father's grave, and a re-examination of a deep loss will eventually reveal either Martin's greatest character or unearth his most heartbreaking flaw. A Well-Respected Man is about the hard choices we make to find fulfillment, and the search to discover meaning in both the life we choose and the one thrust upon us.'

An element that is a constant in David's writing is his enormous sense of humanity. He is as much a philosopher of the porch swing variety as anyone writing today. Read, smile, think, read again and enjoy. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, March 18

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.