Look Both Ways: A Double Journey Along My Grandmother's Far-Flung Path (Paperback)
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 1ST
I’m over the moon about Katharine Coles’ new book. A fevered chase through diaries, letters, and a family’s collective memory sends readers hurtling through the history of Coles’ grandparents, both intrepid explorers and trained, astute scientists, one a woman who found herself sidelined by oil companies and eventually by her husband as well, traveling with him to far-flung outposts only to be expected to set up homes rather than camp while her husband traversed one tract of wilderness after another. Coles, at first silent witness to diary accounts of broken promises and deep frustration, her grandmother’s intermittent but passionate rebellion, her grandfather’s concomitant frustration and growing anger, becomes an active if after-the-fact participant, traveling doggedly, daringly to each faroff, often dangerous, always transitory home, dancing with them in imagination as she examines her own relationship to her husband— her love for him uneasily counterbalanced by her determination to remain free. In twin love stories we watch a woman ahead of her time battle the strictures of that time, a woman in a far different era doing the same, examining in the process the delicate balance between love and freedom that must take place in a truly feminist life, the delicate balance between honesty and compassion that must exist in a truly successful marriage. Rapturous, wise and lyrical, fascinating in terms of history, science, and social custom, deeply moving, this hybrid biography/memoir is as transcendent as the best of novels, fierce, dazzling and true.— Betsy Burton
"Tense, abundantly researched, and heartbreaking . . . Coles makes sense of the unique forces that shaped women in the twentieth century." --Foreword Reviews Walter Link and Miriam Wollaeger, a young geologist couple in 1920s Wisconsin, set out to find oil to supply the surging U.S. demand. This exciting work will allow them to build their lives in South and Central America, Indonesia, and Cuba. But from the first posting in Columbia, they quickly discover that no women are working in the field in these places. While Walter faces the hardships and thrills of exploration in the jungles and mountains, and eventually becomes chief geologist for Standard Oil, Miriam is left behind in the colonial capitals during Walter's often lengthy times away. She defines herself through the limited means left to a woman within their small societies: playing bridge or polo by day and dancing into the wee hours with early KLM pilots, diplomats, and the footloose sons of moneyed Americans and the European aristocracies. She also raises three children, has intimate involvements, learns the local languages, and takes up teaching. But she is not satisfied. And finally she does something about it. Following in her grandparents' footsteps, author Katharine Coles looks backward and forward, through documents and imagination. She looks at their journeys and hers, and mingling their words with her own, examines the delicate balances that must exist in a successful marriage and a feminist life.
About the Author
Katharine Coles is the author of two novels and six collections of poems, the fifth of which, The Earth Is Not Flat, was written under the auspices of the National Science Foundation's Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. The recipient of grants from the NEA, the NEH, and the Guggenheim Foundation, she has served as Poet Laureate of Utah, and was inaugural director of the Poetry Foundation's Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute. She is a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Utah, and is currently working with Poet's House to develop a program that will bring poetry into libraries and natural history museums.