Ten Circles Upon the Pond: Reflections of a Prodigal Mother

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In this wonderfully warm and humorous, loving and reflective book, Virginia Tranel looks at her life through the ten children she brought so joyously into this world.
In 1957, as a young Catholic-raised bride from Iowa, she headed into the rural West with her husband. Within the year she gave birth under ether to her first child. That son was a senior in college in 1978, when her tenth and last child was born--an unmedicated birth that, in a sense, symbolized her journey toward consciousness during those years of enormous social change.
Virginia Tranel traces that journey by centering one chapter on each child; she weaves back and forth in time, recapturing the dozen moves that her vagabond family made over the years as they sought roots in the Wyoming foothills and the prairie towns of Montana. We crisscross the country with her in a Travelall full of contentious children on the way home from visiting grandparents in Iowa; we share her mortification when the Tranel youngsters unabashedly commandeer the pool at a posh resort where their father is attending a psychologists' convention; we await anxiously for news of the two oldest boys lost hiking in the Rocky Mountains; we anguish with the parents over whether they've done enough for a middle daughter.
The scene shifts to the present: to a confrontation with her firstborn, who accuses his mother of polluting the environment with her unbridled fertility; to Mad-rid, where a grown daughter teaches her to face new challenges; to the Alaskan tundra, where another son, who works for the National Park Service, opens up new wonders to his parents; to Atlanta, where daughter Monica is rowing with the U.S. Women's Eight, favored totake the '96 Olympic Gold; to New York, where architect son Ben, working in Manhattan, e-mails firsthand reports of the horrors of September 11.
But it is the domestic details over a span of forty years--the kneading of bread, the making of a quilt or a communion dress, a child's first day of kindergarten, the sharing of closets and clothes and chicken pox--that Virginia Tranel so tellingly describes, leading seamlessly into a homily that always strikes to the heart of the
Part memoir and part reflection on how our culture affects our choices and shapes the relationship between parents and progeny, this unique book is a deeply probing, moving, and illuminating testament to the power of family, to the bonds that hold us together, and to our connection to the land that nurtures us. It is a truly American story.

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Ten Circles Upon the Pond: Reflections of a Prodigal Mother

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At a time when mothers are increasingly electing to stay at home, Tranel's story is noteworthy-hers is a tale of motherhood as a career. The book is broken down into ten chapters, each telling the ... Read full review


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Missing Mountains michael
Loving as Fast as You Can Elizabeth

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About the author (2003)

Virginia Tranel was born and raised in Dubuque, Iowa, and graduated from Clarke College with a degree in English and Spanish. In January 1957, she married Ned Tranel and moved west, settling finally in Billings, Montana. Her essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies, including the Notre Dame Press anthology of best essays, Family.

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