Review: Home is the Road

Home is the Road, Diane Glancy. Minneapolis: Broadleaf Books, 2022.

Summary: The traveling memoirs of a literature professor listening to the messages the land speaks and what within her answers these messages.

This is a book constantly on the move, as is its author. Diane Glancy is an emeritus literature and creative writing professor, still a visiting professor at various institutions across the country. She lives on the road, driving from place to place in an old Chevy with 180,000 miles on it. She believes the land has messages to which she listens as she drives. Her home is the road. She sleeps at rest stops, eats at roadside restaurants, and offers exquisite descriptions of what she sees.

She writes:

My creative scholarship is on the road by myself, sometimes within the shadow of other cars. When I am working on a project, I am following the trail of some historical character. The land has memory. It keeps a journal of what has passed upon it. It is in the elements–if I stand there long enough. There is something in the solitary that I find its shape and that I find its shape and connection to the past.

She is part Native American, raised in a fundamentalist Christian tradition where “everyone accepted Christ as their Savior.” As fashionable as it is in her circles to scorn Christianity and as problematic as it may be she states, “It has been foundational in my life–even its incomprehensible and off-setting parts. I believe in the Christ who was crucified.”

She chronicles her adventures with movers transporting her household from Kansas to California and her own parallel travels, who break and possibly abscond with some of her stuff, and yet she prays God’s mercy on men who brought fishing poles in their truck.

The book reads like the musings one has when driving alone on a long trip, watching a train in the distance, the slowing of trucks on a steep incline, the “shredding of self” that occurs as the miles pile up, the challenges of faith and the failures of her life, including a failed marriage. Will there be driving in the beyond? She thinks Jesus would have loved interstates (all this on two pages). Another chapter, “At Dawn, When You Drive Again,” consists of fragments of memory, mostly of childhood.

Her chapters on disenfranchisement are perhaps the most powerful. Once again, she holds terrible injustices and gospel truths in tension:

But I stayed. I have always stayed. I always will stay. I belong to Christ. I believe within the gospel is everlasting life. The missionaries came with soldiers to teach us this and to rid us of the desperate attacks of panic.

Movingly, she captures the tragedy of the Dakota Access Pipeline, once more, the imposition of American power over indigenous peoples during a visit to see what was taking place.

What made this travel memoir so powerful was this process of listening to the land, to its story and her own, often painful and yet held in tension with an unwavering belief, a hope that would not let her go any more than her love for the road. This is also an American story, in the grandeur of the landscape, the expanses we see from our network of highways, the spirituality that roots us, even as we wrestle with the pain of our own stories and the moral ambiguities of our national story. But will we listen? Will we stay?


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers Program.