Pub date: October 21, 2011
Finalist, 2012 Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize
Warm, imaginative, and thoroughly original, this memoir intertwines the mysteries of trees with the defining moments in the life of novelist and essayist Theresa Kishkan. For Kishkan, trees are memory markers of life, and in this book she explores the presence of trees in nature, in culture, and in her personal history.
Naming each chapter for a particular tree — the Garry oak, the Ponderosa pine, the silver olive, the Plane tree, the Arbutus, and others — she draws on Pliny the Elder's Natural History, John Evelyn's Sylva, and strands of mythology from other classical and contemporary sources to blend scientific fact with natural history and the artifacts of human culture.
Never pedantic and always accessible, Mnemonic reveals — through one woman's relationship with the natural world — how all of us have roots that intertwine with the broader world, tapping deep into the rich well of universal themes. In the words of Pliny the Elder, "hence it is right to follow the natural order, to speak about trees before other things..."
"Contains some of [Theresa Kishkan's] best writing yet . . . the essays in Mnemonic transcend their autobiographical origins as Kishkan uses the personal as a lens through which to explore a broad range of interests, among them natural history, First Nations culture, literature and music." Geist
"Whether discussing the olive trees of Knossos, Crete where she once lived or the displaced quercus virginiana she knew as a child growing up in BC, Kishkan’s mnemonic exercise and the result — ie, this book — is the consequence of her own evolving, unfolding perspective, told in wonderfully unadorned prose. Like the trees she so loves, her book is a living work." — Chris Morgan, The Scene
"Mnemonic is both tiny and astounding. Loss, life and love between two covers. I can’t imagine I’ll ever completely let it go." — Linda L. Richards, January Magazine
"Mnemonic is a beautiful read . . . hers is a beautiful, personal memoir." — Angela Hickman, Maple Tree Literary Supplement
"Not since I first read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek have I encountered anything like this, any mind like this. These essays are challenging, rich and surprising, and well worth the close attention they demand from their reader. And lack of knowledge of about filbert catkins ceases to matter anyway, though Kishkan leaves you curious, but the point is to follow where she leads, her path through the woods, and there’s no doubt you’re in the hands of a most capable guide." — Kerry Clare, picklemethis.com