[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of “Home is the Prime Meridian” by Bill Felker.]
4 out of 4 stars
Home is the Prime Meridian: Almanac Essays in Search of Time and Place and Spirit by Bill Felker is a collection of non-fiction essays set in Yellow Springs, Ohio. The essays vary in length from one to four pages. As the title suggests, the essays focus on three topics: time, place and spirit. Told in sequence, these essays follow the seasons one experiences in a year: winter, spring, summer and fall.
Home is the Prime Meridian is a literary lover’s delicacy. The author utilizes masterful control over language to touch upon all five senses. Felker further adds an emotional element to his writing to create a strong connection between the reader and the enchanting setting in which these essays take place. The tone throughout the collection is impassioned, sometimes nostalgic, and at other times, hopeful, but each essay is imbued with the same sincerity and reverence for nature. The writing is crisp, and the author’s word choices are eloquent, making one want to read, reread and reread again the short essays compiled in this collection.
The book is a collection of essays, but I think the author’s work would better be categorized as poetic, story-telling non-fiction. His way with words clearly sets the scene for the reader and transports one to the exact time and place being written about. Although I have never been to Yellow Springs, Ohio, I could taste the harshness of the cold winter months; I could see the emerging color in the spring; I could hear the tranquil summer days, and I could feel the loss brought by autumn. Instead of feeling like an observer looking in on the author’s memories, I felt as if I was in a trance, imagining and remembering the very things described in each essay.
There are forty-two essays in this collection, and each one stood out as a unique and equally intriguing work of art. Many times, collections like this can feel repetitive or become tedious to read due to similar writing and use of the same literary devices over and over again. However, that is not the case with Home is the Prime Meridian. Each essay is thought provoking in its own way: some essays are lighthearted and easily decipherable, others are more obscure and require interpretation. However, I found each essay was as enjoyable as the next, and none failed to capture my attention. Further, whether we are reading about plants, animals, constellations or landscapes, each poem is somewhat introspective and all revolve around so much more than just the natural elements we think we are reading about. Loss, aging, spirituality, change, mortality, and the perpetual cycle of life are just some of the themes touched upon in Felker’s essays.
I devoured these essays one by one. Each time I thought I had found my favorite essay, another came along and impressed me even more. “Wow” was my reaction to the author’s words over and over again. The layers of meaning behind the short, sometimes simple words had me in awe of this writer’s ability to mold language and evoke emotions long buried in my mind. This is a collection I will cherish and return to frequently. I strongly urge lovers of nature, earth and the naturalistic to read this collection. I have never felt so strongly about a collection of essays; Home is the Prime Meridian is truly a treat for the senses and a writer’s delight. In my mind, this book deserves far more than four stars, but as that is the highest award I can give, I rate Home is the Prime Meridian a strong 4 out of 4 stars.