Longlisted for the 2022 PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay!
In these superb essays, DeWitt Henry shows himself to be a master of the form. Whether he is writing about his life-long experience as a golfer or with guns or having grown up in the shadow of privilege and alcoholism, one senses that Henry is stepping nakedly, and with a clear and unsentimental eye, into the abiding mystery of the decades of his life thus far: as a son, a brother, a husband and father, a writer, a teacher, a friend. But he accomplishes all this without trying to solve that mystery but to simply live it. This is not an easy path, but perhaps it is the only path toward wisdom, which is abundant in this moving, deeply compelling, and indispensable collection. Endings & Beginnings: Family Essays is a gem.
— Andre Dubus III, author of Townie
When DeWitt Henry writes that “our games rehearsed our lives,” I nodded: so true; well said. As I continued reading, it occurred to me that the most dramatic moments (terrible illness; how loved ones are lost; the difficulties of parenting) also rehearse our lives, and are also only a dress rehearsal. How many people get their big moment on the stage, and if so, for how long? This is the writer’s implied question throughout. Maybe it’s better to resist the usual tendency to extrapolate from accounts of other people’s lives in order to better understand our own, and to simply read them as individual statements that point inward, to the heart of an individual. These would be good essays with which to start.
—Ann Beattie, author of A Wonderful Stroke of Luck
With Endings & Beginnings: Family Essays, we have a book filled with the kinds of secrets all of our families hide but almost never reveal. Dewitt Henry proves himself to be the honest, frank, and skilled chronicler of many lives, recounting the moving histories of his own parents, siblings, and children. We are the fortunate ones as readers to be able to share in the telling of these stories, because by the end what we also learn is Henry’s own story as a son, father, husband, and writer; indeed, he is vulnerable, sensitive, making connections we might not realize, confessing his own fears and limitations, with a rare admirable humility.
—Allen Gee, author of My Chinese America
Henry is a fascinating man, made of fascinating stock and pursuits: his family’s chocolate business; his once obsession with golf; his father’s “bad years”; the challenges of parenting and marriage; the betrayals of colleagues and friends; familial bonds. I was very impressed, in fact, at how unsentimentally yet lovingly he writes of his family, especially his brothers, though perhaps the greatest praise I can give is that he made me wish I had grown up appreciating guns and gun culture. “Embodiment” opened a window into his humanity and I thought it was a particularly brave essay, and, with “Father of the Bride,” (notwithstanding his hysterically awkward mention of Mexican weed) the collection ended on the perfect notes of love, bonds, and hope.
—Jerald Walker, author of How To Make A Slave
Endings & Beginnings is a stirring distillation of what it means to be connected—whether through life-long rituals of golf and swimming, or the more monumental of weddings and family losses. As well as through the things of our lives; Henry recalls the bb pistols of not only his own childhood, but of his son’s, when he sets up a makeshift range in his office to shoot at cartoon targets; then of his dying brother teaching his son how to shoot another gun he remembers. The careful refining of such moments into, as Henry describes, ’a wholeness to the landscape in which I live,’ is the driving power behind this keenly thoughtful and at turns, humorous and haunting new collection.
— Sandra Tyler, author Blue Glass