Book review: Made Holy: Essays — by Emily Arnason Casey

(University of Georgia Press)

As an essay collection, Emily Arnason Casey’s new book succeeds on every level. Her writing is evocative, relatable, haunting and magical. Using descriptive prose that stimulates your every sense, the essays transport you to particular places in time: the lake cabin of her childhood; her grandparents’ house in Minnesota, “beautiful to [her as one] who grew up in apartments and a walkout basement until the age of fourteen;” the cold blue room of her college apartment; the living room of a stranger as a naive teenager. The stories are quintessentially of the American experience and Casey employs memories like guides to the past, remarkably shifting from being wholly present in the space of the memory to consciously watching from her future self. The essays that tackle addiction are searing and honest, and the collection is worth reading for those insights alone, but the family recollections, of summers past and lessons learned from parents, as well as her experiences as a woman in this society, are as rich as any I have read.

Editor’s note: Casey will read from her essay collection as part of the New England Review Vermont Reading Series, Thursday, Oct. 10, 7 p.m. at The Vermont Book Shop.

— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.


8 Literary Essay Collections

Trick Mirror, by Jia Tolentino

Tell Me How It Ends, by Valeria Luiselli

The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay

The Source of Self-Regard, by Toni Morrison

Citizen, by Claudia Rankine

Modern Love, Revised and Updated, by Daniel Jones

The Collected Schizophrenias, by Esme Weijun Wang

Erosion, by Terry Tempest Williams  

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