The Deep Limitless Air, A Memoir in Pieces

Mary Allen’s effortlessly original voice addresses the reader with startling simplicity and moral clarity, whether she is introducing us to the tender friendship between a young woman and a celebrated octogenarian, or allowing us to see through her eyes the beautiful solemnity of monks at their devotions, or tracing her own strange citizenship in the liminal realm of a disrupted childhood and the years that follow.  Simply put, read this book.  Allen’s beguiling and brilliant writing will leave you exhilarated.

— Jo Ann Beard, author of Festival Days

Among the reasons I love The Deep Limitless Air is that its spirituality is so light-handed and matter-of-fact and barely distinguishable from the apprehension and appreciation of ordinary life, life both lived and recalled. Mary Allen writes about growing up with a rejecting mother, of lovers, partners, and friends, and a procession of animals who summon her tender and respectful attention, of learning to bear the long silence of meditation and the joyful shout of the world. A beautiful, funny, warm, and heartbreaking book. 

Peter Trachtenberg, author of Another Insane Devotion, On the Love of Cats and Persons

A memoir in pieces, this book is subtitled, and I say what life isn’t in pieces?  A snarl of honeybees in a parcel at the post office evokes a mother’s long-ago rage; a medical insurance crisis precedes a sister giving birth; past loves and an old man who was kind; Boston, Iowa City, Hawaii, speculations of the afterlife.  The Deep Limitless Air tells a life of successive revelation, evolving wisdom.  Its prose has the freshness of the most optimistic morning.  I adore this book.

Honor Moore, author of Our Revolution, A Mother and Daughter at Midcentury