I can find fault with just about any book I read, but A View From Vermont by Helen Husher is practically faultless, as far as I am concerned. Ms Husher is a writer’s writer, and her book is a feast for readers who love both ideas and the magical words that express them. If you enjoy captivating stories written aptly and beautifully, then you should indulge in this brilliant book. If you revel in the huge variety of people, places, and events in our vast world, then this book is for you. I can pretty much guarantee that you will learn some new things, and that you will be happy that you learned them. I was born in Vermont, but there were several remarkable things that Husher details in this book that I knew nothing about.
You don’t have to be born in Vermont or live in Vermont or even visit Vermont (although you should someday) to love this book. It is likely that on some level and in some possibly quirky way, you will be able to relate to or identify with people in this book. If you find nobody like you, I think you will find at least one somebody that you will wish you were like. This book explores many themes that find particular and unique expression in Vermont, but the themes are universal nonetheless. As you read Husher’s insightful comments, you will find yourself sometimes thinking, Yes, I have thought that myself and sometimes thinking, Hm, I’ve never thought about it that way before.
A Veiw From Vermont is part thought experiment, part trivia encyclopedia, part travelogue, part history text, part social commentary, and part treatise on art and culture. It is primarily, I think, the author’s celebration of the beautifully odd and the oddly beautifully.
As I said, Husher’s writing is superb–comparable, I think, to Anne Lamott’s and Annie Dillard’s. Here’s one sentence that I was particularly taken with:
[The typical image of Vermont] leaves out the cold hard cider that runs in the veins of the state, the astringent, surprising, and mildly intoxicating aftertaste of violent thunderstorms, peculiar place-names, insular gossip, and muddy roads.
And here two other elegant sentences that illustrate Ms Husher’s skill:
Because Vermont summers are short, the smell of autumn can be caught around the edges of the breeze by Labor Day. This scent–a mix of hay bales, ammonia, and coffee grounds–arrives obliquely but unmistakably after the first cold rain, and within a week a few trees, usually the stressed ones, will display a flash of yellow fingernails.
Do not let my excerpts fool you into thinking that the book is primarily about the seasons or the weather, although those topics are important in the book. I simply did not want to give away any of the marvelous surprises that await you if you treat yourself to this superb little volume. As I said, you are bound to learn something new and be very glad to have learned it.