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Returning to Earth ( True North #2)

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,429 Ratings  ·  171 Reviews
Returning to Earth revisits the improvised family of the son and daughter of the timber-baron family from True North.
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published February 14th 2007 by House of Anansi Pr (first published September 1st 1977)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,494)
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A very satisfying read of an extended family in the Michigan Upper Peninsula finding their way through woods of life. Harrison is among a handful of American novelists I most appreciate for a capacity to elucidate the interplay of the individual and collective sources of meaning in existence. Likely many potential readers have encountered Harrison through the movie version of his novella “Legends of the Fall”. Common elements here include a big focus on evoking a sense of a particular place and ...more
Dec 11, 2008 Tom rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Middle-aged man dying of Lou Gehrig's disease wants his family to help him end his life. The consequences of that decision for his family and assorted relatives take up most of the book. Broken into four sections, the novel reads like a series of linked novellas (not surprising, given Harrison's great success with that form). Though lyrically written and poignant at times, overall I found this book to be somewhat disappointing. I've read several other of Harrison's books -- Farmer, Warlock, Lege ...more
Jul 15, 2013 Brad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
The more I think about this book, the more I like it. Ever since my Mom passed away last year I consistently hear comments like, "she's looking down and smiling," which I can't stand. It's so refreshing to read a novel that has a non-Christian view of grief. As it turns out, being part of a family is as amorphous as grief, and Harrison's stream-of-consciousness writing style allowed the characters to shape their stories one mosaic tile at a time. There are plenty of well-written passages, and I ...more
Oct 13, 2007 Lizzie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
I just finished this book and so many different thoughts are racing through my mind. My first action will be to pick it up and read it again. At the crux of the book is a character, Donald, who is dying and trying to depart his story on to his future generations. It is told in four parts each by a different charachter and this only adds to the depth and vision of the circumstances of Donald's life. It is a poignant reminder that we do not live on the earth alone and with joy comes pain but it is ...more
Dec 14, 2008 Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This was the first read of my recent vacation, and while it's not exactly a beach read for sure, as the novel centers around the assisted suicide of a man suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, the quirky characters kept me interested enough to stay engrossed despite the soft sand and blue skies and water. (Wait, is this a review of the book or of my fabulous vacation? ;-) The novel is told from the inside perspective of 4 characters--the dying man, his nephew, his brother-in-law and finally, his ...more
Sep 24, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes the right book falls into your hands at the right time. This book is one long musing on death. One of the characters (I hesitate to call him the main character, though his spirit dominates), dies from a terminal illness. His family deals with the loss, but in not necessarily typical ways. I also have a family member who has a terminal illness - I hesitated to read this. Glad I did. The straightforward approach to death and the possibilities of an after life were refreshing. As always, ...more
RH Walters
Jun 28, 2010 RH Walters rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A passionate earthy man orchestrates his own poetic death. The first half of the book is perfect. A character named Flower is barely part of the story yet her shrewd, mystical, semi-feral lifestyle haunts my imagination.
Sep 17, 2007 Brandy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book wasn't life-changing, but was a great, quick read. The writing style was different (very stream-of-consciousness) and I enjoyed it. I grew to love the family in the book and didn't want to leave them at the end!
Aug 29, 2009 Ryan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I had known that this book centered around the death of a loved one, I would not have picked it up. As it was, I only chose it because it was the only thing on the shelf by Harrison and I was looking for "Legends of the Fall." The book is about Donald's death and the way it affects the lives of his wife, daughter, and other family members. For me, it was beyond mundane at some points. I mean, I know death has every day repercussions, but some of it was just a bit too tedious for me. There wer ...more
Mar 20, 2008 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
okay, i'm going to come clean about a very un-PC trait of mine: i have an aesthetic aversion to native american culture. it just rubs me the wrong way in film, book, what have you. i'm officially sorry. and, officially, i can't help it.

that made this book all the more surprising. this sensitive and absorbing story of a father's death and the impact it has on those close to him is ingeniously told from the point of view of five of the story's characters in separate, discrete sections that move th
Brandee Shafer
Apr 24, 2016 Brandee Shafer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first Jim Harrison experience unless one counts Legends of the Fall, movie version. I could say that Returning to Earth is about a man's decline and death (from disease) and the ways in which he and his loved ones prepare for his death, also the ways in which his loved ones process the experience for the first year after his passing,...BUT that would be taking the easy way out.

Returning to Earth is divided into four parts, each of which is presented as the perspective of one of four
Apr 18, 2014 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
Very good. Some of it extremely good. Divided into four sections told from the POV of four different characters, the first is by far the most powerful—an account told by a dying man (dictated by his wife, with occasional explanatory asides) about the history of his family and then about an experience he had spending three days alone in the wilderness with no food or water. This last part ends his section, and damn is it powerful. Almost made me cry and would have had I been alone. Just really, r ...more
Maria Paiz
This book begins with Donald, a man of Native American and Finnish descent in the last stages of Lou Gehrig's disease, recounting his story and that of his Indian ancestors, as a way of preserving his family's history for his children. Donald is a deeply spiritual man, very much in touch with his Anishnabeg beliefs, who communes with nature, works hard, and speaks frugally. Stoically proud and profoundly mystic, Donald believes he will be reincarnated as a bear. After Donald's passing, the rest ...more
This book got a glowing review in the New York Times book review, so I didn't think I could go too far wrong. Once I started it I almost abandoned it, but since it was summer and I had the time, I finished it. I respect this book but I didn't like it. Can't say exactly what was off--it just didn't sing.
Orrin Laferte
Apr 16, 2009 Orrin Laferte rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the second story in a two part saga about the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Patterson has a great affection for Native Americans and a clear grasp of the dynamics of well to do dysfunctional families. He intertwines these themes expertly in this work
Aug 19, 2009 Nancy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, audiobooks
Audio was a little hard to follow, so I got the hard copy to read along. I don't think I would have made it through the hard copy without the audio either, but an interesting book I'm glad to have read.
Jul 03, 2014 Bet rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read several Jim Harrison books because I was told he writes well about Upper Michigan, where I grew up. Up to now, I've been disappointed, finding the characters boringly sex-obsessed, but Returning to Earth was more satisfying, especially the first section, told in the voice of a working-class man. Harrison really portrayed a believable "Yooper". The other characters, including the women, are well-drawn, but not really typical of the area. I'm not sure that I can agree with the reviewers ...more
Aug 31, 2015 Meredith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I read Jim Harrison, I can't help myself. I binge read. This book filled me with hope about human resilience in the face of disaster. Also this is where I live. These are my people. When I read Harrison's books about the U.P. all I can do is pause and be grateful that I get to be here. It is both wonderful and terrible. Jim Harrison captures that so well. We're all kind of fucked up and that's the best part of here.

Jimmer gets me, man. I don't know how, but this book was both a punch in the
Sep 05, 2014 Jill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Written from the perspective of four members of a family who are faced with the death of one of their number, this is a moving account of loss and grief. Set in the upper Peninsula of Michigan, the descriptions of scenery and animals are beautiful. The references to the often damaged survivors of the local Indian tribes challenged my ideas of the American Indian. Sometimes I found it frustrating to read as characters are often introduced then 'go missing' until they are reintroduced by another f ...more
Aug 31, 2014 Chris rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fitting sequel to True North, set twenty years later in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, this book is a thousand times better than any ice bucket challenge video as it relates to its character and his family as they deal with his life and death from ALS. It always takes me a little while to get used to Harrisons writing style. He is far more Faulkner than Hemingway, some of his paragraphs could compose of entire chapters in most fiction. But, I quickly came to relish this quality and enjoyed the fa ...more
Ex Libris
Aug 12, 2014 Ex Libris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
bear with me while I die

This is the first novel I have read by this author. I thoroughly enjoyed it from the first to the last page. The narrative, in my opinion, was captivating and it was written well; it truly captured the consciousness of a dying man's thoughts. What I loved especially was the main character's narrative about his past, his culture and his ability to hold on to all of it in such a hectic world. His and other character's way of lives are in such contrast to the daily maze of m
Hailed by The New York Times Book Review as “a master … who makes the ordinary extraordinary, the unnamable unforgettable,” beloved author Jim Harrison returns with a masterpiece—a tender, profound, and magnificent novel about life, death, and finding redemption in unlikely places. Slowly dying of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Donald, a middle-aged Chippewa-Finnish man, begins dictating family stories he has never shared with anyone, hoping to preserve history for his children. The dignity of Donald’s d ...more
Dec 16, 2010 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really liked the beginning of this book because Harrison really captured the voice of his character, Donald. I read it like I was hearing the character tell a story out loud.

As the story evolved into narratives by the other characters, however, I thought it became weaker. The other three characters sounded too much like the first. The first, Donald, was my favorite. The voice really matched the character. The second, K, I couldn't figure out. His life and character structure had a lot of poten
Sep 02, 2012 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first became aware of Jim Harrison when I saw a television show about a traveling gourmet. The show was about food, but the host had stopped in a small town in Montana, where he happened to meet Harrison, who took him trout fishing, caught some nice fish, brought 'em home and cooked 'em up as steaks. I'd never seen trout served that way. During the show, the host mentioned that Harrison had authored a book that was subsequently made into a movie, "Legends of the Fall".

I have an acquaintance w
Iowa City Public Library
Returning to Earth by Jim Harrison is a novel to savor. As you read the story of Donald, a middle-aged Chippewa-Finnish man dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease, you remember the passing of those you cared for and contemplate your own death, hoping for even a small part of Donald’s dignity. It’s a remarkable experience. Hoping to leave a legacy for his children, Donald dictates his family’s story to his wife, Cynthia, who occasionally adds her own comments. His tale of three generations working the far ...more
Mar 13, 2010 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a remarkable book. Set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan it is the story of a loose set of family members who witness and participate in the nurturing and comforting of a man who eventually dies of Lou Gehrig's disease.

The author writes of this setting and passage from the view point of several: Donald - the man himself, his son, wife, and his brother. They in turn connect the reader to others - girlfriends, best friends, sisters, as well as grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, and uncles
Sue Bridehead (A Pseudonym)
Harrison's writing style probably isn't for everyone, but I loved this book. I found the characters very real, very lived-in, and I didn't want to leave them. The last page gave me the sniffles.

I'm sure a common criticism waged at this novel is the fact that every one of the 5 or so narrators has the same voice. It's quite obvious, since the narrative voice in question is very quirky, full of run-on sentences and strange grammatical constructions.

That's a real problem, I guess, but I didn't mind
What thoughts and memories run through one’s head when a father, husband, brother-in-law, uncle, is about to return to the earth? How does a family face and process the imminent death of their beloved patriarch, diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and given three months to live but probably less than that? This is a story of Donald who is preparing for his own death, and of his family who must also prepare, each in their own way. But I suppose “story” is the wrong word. It is a jumble of memorie ...more
Jul 15, 2007 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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Jim Harrison was born in Grayling, Michigan, to Winfield Sprague Harrison, a county agricultural agent, and Norma Olivia (Wahlgren) Harrison, both avid readers. He married Linda King in 1959 with whom he has two daughters.

Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

His awards include National Academy of Arts grants
More about Jim Harrison...

Other Books in the Series

True North (2 books)
  • True North

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“It takes a long time for a father to drive the love out of a child.” 0 likes
“[...] I finally understood that death and numbers don't cohere. Everyone is 'one.' An accident report might say that nine died, four of them in their teens, but each death was 'one.' Each of six million Jews was 'one.' With death it is a series of 'ones.” 0 likes
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