The Exact Place: A Memoir by Margie L. Haack
Deep in the woods of northwestern Minnesota where the temperatures drop easily below freezing and the neighbors drop in at any time, Margie L. Haack tells the story of her life growing up with five siblings, a mother and a stepfather. The portrait she weaves is both intimately personal and public, brimming with details of her search for her stepfather’s love and the daily grind of life on a farm. Margie’s writing shines forth with an amazing clarity on account of her willingness to bring the reader to experience what she has experienced and to step back with a perceptive glance at the details of her own life.
One of my absolute favorite parts of the book was Margie’s description of her early love for reading. Although Margie wasn’t led early on in reading by her family, her passion for books came to the surface very early on in life. She describes it by writing, “Words began to light up in spellbinding stories…..Books exploded into talking horses, trolls living under bridges, and the poetic order of “twelve little girls in two straight lines” who “left the house at half-past nine” (153). Starting from a lower reading level and quickly moving up to the top, Margie devoured anything that came her way. This part of the book was akin to my own experience with books, the sense that they opened up new worlds, new ideas, and new thoughts that wouldn’t let go from your mind.
Early on the book, Margie writes, “By the time I was nine, I had five brothers and sisters and Dad had distilled laws for children into one basic rule: “Don’t do as I do, do as I say.” In other words, obey me. ..I was always vigilant trying to discern unspoken rules conveyed by a look or a sudden movement of his hand” (12). The ever winding road of obedience to an authority figure was cast for Margie at an early age. Yet, there was a never ending quest for seeking to please her dad, wanting that ‘Good girl’ encouragement, that tender Fatherly care to come out of her relationship with her dad. The beauty of this memoir is that Margie in passages like this one draws out the internal self-conversation that takes place with an amazing sensitivity to her own heart and motives. In seeking to please Wally with her chores and activities around the farm, Margie began to ask similar questions of God. “God must, I thought, need to be won by the same sort of hard work and allurement my human father apparently required. And yet, what would God need that I could give?” (180). Yet, as she indicates, the memorizing of certain passages of Scripture lead her to a fuller understanding of God as Father and his care for her.
Margie brought to life the experiences and details of life on a farm, from the colors of the forest to the stupidity of the sheep. I couldn’t put this book down, it was much like a character in a good novel that you can’t tear yourself away from. Rather than paint over the painful and difficult moments of life, Margie takes the reader to those moments and brings them face to face with their own world.
Much thanks to Kalos Press, an imprint of Doulos Resources for the complimentary copy of this book in exchange for review.