Circle Way, A Daughter’s Memoir, A Writer’s Journey Home,
a writer’s memoir of her relationship with her writer father and her search for answers to the questions she never asked.
How many of us have wished we’d asked more questions of our parents and grandparents? As successful and highly regarded as Bill Hogan was, he never published a book of his own. Circle Way is his daughter’s attempt to discover why her dad didn’t consider himself a real writer. How much of that was in Bill’s DNA, or was he living out his family culture and expectations?
Circle Way will probably make numerous connections with some readers who follow BWS. How many are native-born northern Californians and are old enough to remember (as I do) reading Bill Hogan’s book reviews and commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle? Circle Way is not only the title of Mary Ann Hogan’s memoir, slated to be published in February 2022 (pre-order): it is also the name of a street in Mill Valley, where the home she loved and grew up in is located.
What if the state you now live in is not the state of your birth or childhood? The author makes an interesting case for wondering if the “here” of where you are now is only a location lacking the “there” of wherever you came from. I need to say right now that Circle Way is not a story of parental abuse or an unhappy childhood. It is, however, a spectacular story of an immensely fascinating family, replete with business magnets with deep roots in California history, others who had fallen into poverty, and even a long-held secret, a black sheep whose time in San Quentin came to be a lynchpin for his success and a window through which the author could see her family more clearly.
Mary Ann’s memoir was decades in the making. What Bill Hogan left for his daughter to find were his notebooks, journals, letters, his own artwork, favorite books, and just about everything a kid could ask for as clues to a parent’s identity. How many of us have gone through a deceased family member’s memorabilia without at least one “aha” moment? How many of us, even now, are trying to figure out what to save and what to toss when the time comes for our families to go through our things?
The author herself was a journalist, a poet, a teacher. Born in the Bay Area, Hogan married, eventually moving to the East Coast and then Florida before returning to California with her husband and two sons. What do I mean she “was” a journalist, you might ask? Nothing I can say about the book is a spoiler. Mary Ann Hogan died of a rare cancer before she could complete Circle Way. Eric Newton, her beloved husband and stalwart editor, writes both the prologue and last chapters of his wife’s book.
One of my favorite takes (and there are many) from Circle Way is Japanese: kintsugi. It means not only repairing a broken bowl but “instead of hiding the cracks, you light them up with powdered gold. The break becomes a respected part of an object’s story of service, a very nice way to treat a ceramic bowl. And people, too.”
Not a memoir about death or grief, Circle Way is about life and living and the stories contained therein. This book is such a gift. Wrap a pink bow around your pre-ordered copy of Circle Way. It will be the best Valentine’s Day present you can give or receive. – Sunny Solomon
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