Reviews for Enchantment

by Katherine May

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A journey to reawaken the wonder and awe within us all. When May, the author of Wintering and The Electricity of Every Living Thing, realized her feeling of extreme exhaustion and isolation in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic wasn’t disappearing anytime soon, she set out to uncover the sense of awe she remembered accessing so readily as a child. At the heart of this memoir are the author’s often rocky attempts to figure out enchantment, which she defines as “small wonder magnified through meaning, fascination caught in the web of fable and memory.” Each section of the book—“Earth,” “Water,” “Fire,” and “Air”—brings the author closer to that sense of wonder. May chronicles her experiences swimming in the ocean, beekeeping, and watching meteor showers, among other quotidian joys. Featuring lyrical writing and clear open-mindedness, the narrative will speak to anyone feeling lonely in the modern world. May shows us that enchantment is present all around us—in our shared cultural histories, the names of wildflowers, and natural phenomena—if we only allow ourselves to look. However, “if we wait passively to become enchanted, we could wait a long time.” The active pursuit of wonder does not demand extreme, specialized circumstances but rather the ability to look at the world with an open heart and mind. Simple knowledge can provide its own kind of wonder as well. “You do not need to walk in the wilderness to make contact with the wild,” writes the author. “If you know your stories—if you understand the mythologies of your land—then you can leap from a sunlit stroll with your dog into the ancient, chthonic wood.” This book will appeal to fans of Ross Gay’s two collections of essays, Inciting Joy and The Book of Delights. May’s pursuit of enchantment will resonate with anyone feeling burned out or disconnected. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

After two years of COVID-19 restrictions, May, author of the best-selling Wintering (2020), seeks a return of enchantment and meaning. She finds she’s unable to concentrate. She feels adrift and disconnected from those around her. Turning to the traditional four elements—earth, water, fire and air—May looks for ways to reconnect with the natural world and find a sense of community in her daily life. Holding smooth stones in her hand, she draws the feeling of solidity and heft from the earth. While swimming in the ocean, she feels at one with the water and her fellow swimmers. Burned out and unable to focus long enough to read after months of stress and caution, May ponders the power of fire to spark renewal. And finally the author looks to the air and sky to find meaning in the stars. It’s by returning to her roots in England’s countryside and searching for enchantment in the everyday that May finally finds healing. Beautifully written and profoundly reasoned, this introspective search for meaning will appeal to readers seeking wholeness and community.