Kathy Eldon has written a big, sprawling memoir about a big, sprawling life.
“In the Heart of Life” is an emotionally honest, deeply personal and well-written book, with well-paced chapters in exotic locales. It has a lot of heart and humor to balance the times of loss and grief.
Eldon is almost too earnest, too hard on herself, in recalling the decisions she made and their consequences. Such in-depth thinking about one’s life is the hallmark of a good memoir, of course, but some of Eldon’s self-justification goes on a bit too long.
The sections of the book I enjoyed most come from Eldon’s years in Africa. There’s adventure, sex and colorful, swaggering personalities. She does a good job chronicling the restlessness that beset her — the “feeling that has no name” that marked many an awakening in the 1970s and 1980s.
The most challenging parts of the memoir concern Eldon’s time with psychics in London when she “wakes up” to her life. Her son, Dan, thought the exploration of such phenomena “was ridiculous,” she allows.
But she says she approached the exploration “in a journalistic way, as a reluctant observer,” taking notes and taping sessions. The experiences were “so down to earth, so matter of fact … just very ordinary … that I have to share this.”
One part of the memoir that local readers, in particular, will enjoy are the references to familiar names and places, such as Camp Wapsie and St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, as well as the deep love Eldon carries for her mother.
The memoir does what memoirs are supposed to do — reflect on one’s life. This is life’s story told with more honesty than most and one that carries a message of hope and support for living a well-examined life.
“The journey is the destination,” Eldon writes.
There’s no denying hers has been a fascinating journey.