Title: And Then I am Gone – A Walk with Thoreau
Author: Mathias B. Freese
Format: Print copy mailed by author in exchange for an honest review
My rating: 2/5
And Then I Am Gone: A Walk with Thoreau tells the story of a New York City man who becomes an Alabama man. Despite his radical migration to simpler living and a late-life marriage to a saint of sorts, his persistent pet anxieties and unanswerable questions follow him. Mathias Freese wants his retreat from the societal “it” to be a brave safari for the self rather than cowardly avoidance, so who better to guide him but Henry David Thoreau, the self-aware philosopher who retreated to Walden Pond “to live deliberately” and cease “the hurry and waste of life”? In this memoir, Freese wishes to share how and why he came to Harvest, Alabama (both literally and figuratively), to impart his existential impressions and concerns, and to leave his mark before he is gone.
I wanted to enjoy this memoir associated with Thoreau! Although some nuggets of wisdom weaved into the narrative, I feel that my attention was lost a number of times throughout. I will say this type of writing is not in my wheelhouse, and I am glad to have experienced a different form of narrative and perspective sharing. My expectation was that we would delve into Freese’s transition and struggle with this new way of life and what he learns in this simple living. My experience with the memoir took me throughout his life and the roller coaster of emotions when it comes to politics and strong opinions. I admire his unapologetic nature to say how things are and what he believes in. We need more authors who are that honest and brave, that don’t hide behind fluff and what they think the readers want to hear.
I found the musings to be in line with a personal letter to/conversation with Henry Thoreau. However, these seemed thrown in as afterthoughts following an intense narrative about a defining experience, such as his daughter’s suicide, his other daughter’s cutting of ties, and the reaction to Trump’s presidential win. As an aspiring writer, I loved his passionate telling of his craft, saying “(m)any new and old writers are consumed by fear, and this reflects in their lives and in their writings. In another month or so I will give a talk about acts of empathy and imagination, my own personal haunts, in a writer’s workshop. My task is to expend my passion, my wit, my sensibilities on individuals who may or may not get it. I say do not write, but passion-ate. I must say that I am very grateful I can write; it is my lyre, my unguent, my balletic step, my aria, and I feel blessed, for I hewed it out of granite. I made me” (Freese 40). Embracing the fear and using it gives way to moments of clarity and awareness, the latter a key theme pressed upon. He continues later, “I write not to be read, necessarily, although that is sweet as well, for it leads to conversation, good feelings, and good talk. I do not write to be known” (Freese 43).
Other challenges with my engagement in the text included the lofty use of big words and aspiring for magnanimous and life-altering text regardless of the nature of Thoreau and simplicity.
Read And Then I am Gone – A Walk with Thoreau if you like the themes of: