Driving Backwards (Hardcover)
Gilmanton was briefly the most famous town in America. Today the town, nestled amongst the hills of Central New Hampshire and along the curve of the Suncook River, is a microcosm of the changing ways and enduring values of rural life in the twenty-first century.
Driving Backwards is a poignant exploration of the vividness of the everyday. Across twenty years of summers, Jessica Lander has come to know Gilmanton and its residents. Valerie, who tends sixtyfive goats,home-schools ten children and crafts artisanal goat cheese. Jim and Cheryl, who raise miniature horses, flocks of chickens and long eared rabbits all on two tiny acres. Duncan, a third generation farmer, who harvests thousands of pound of wild blueberries each year summer. Chuck, who runs a six-generation dairy farm.
Lander's guide is David Bickford—a fireman, carpenter, town selectman and nearly one hundred year old storyteller. Through richly observed portraits and elegant prose Lander elevates the ordinary, and encourages a deeper appreciation for the stories that surrounding us. With grace, humor, affection and insight, Driving Backwards blends three hundred years of colorful history with the contemporary lives, seasonal rhythms and varied landscape of modern small-town America.
About the Author
Jessica Lander is an avid explorer and a lover of stories. She has lived and taught in countries as far away as Thailand and Cambodia and in cities as close as Boston and Cambridge—teaching students from sixth grade to university. In addition to her freelance journalism, she writes an education-focused blog, Chalk Dust, about experiences in and out of the classroom. Growing up, Jessica spent her summers in Gilmanton, New Hampshire. She currently lives in her hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts, near to family and friends.
“Take a small town, add a fresh voice, mix in some truly memorable detail, and you have Driving Backwards. Charming, vivid, informative, and a little bit scandalous,it crosses Robert Frost with John McPhee—just marvelous.”
Author, World and Town and Tiger Writing
“A richly observed, witty, and lyrical evocation of smalltown New England, Driving Backwards is a kind of jewel. Its many dazzling facets—its people, its places, its inventive and powerful prose, its enormous heart—bring life and light to a history and a present that is precious to all of us.”
Poet, Former Poetry Editor of Ploughshares
“Occasionally it happens: You don't want a book to end. Usually it's a novel, but non-fiction—memoir, biography—can grip and hold you, too. Jessica Lander's Driving Backwards is a splice of memoir and collective biography, a portrait of Gilmanton, New Hampshire, briefly famous as the inspiration for "Peyton Place." Lander's family spent summers in Gilmanton, and over nearly twenty years she steeped her imagination in a town "thickly wooded with history." Gilmanton recalls Grover's Corners, the subject of Thornton Wilder's Our Town. Love and marriage, death and memory, past and present—the immutable script of life. Driving Backwards delivers some of those same small-town, big-universe goods. I didn't want it to end.”
Senior Editor, The Atlantic and NPR News Analyst