And Then I Am Gone: A Walk with Thoreau tells the story of a New York City man who becomes an Alabama man. Despite his radical migration to simpler living and a late-life marriage to a saint of sorts, his persistent pet anxieties and unanswerable questions follow him. Mathias Freese wants his retreat from the societal “it” to be a brave safari for the self rather than cowardly avoidance, so who better to guide him but Henry David Thoreau, the self-aware philosopher who retreated to Walden Pond “to live deliberately” and cease “the hurry and waste of life”? In this memoir, Freese wishes to share how and why he came to Harvest, Alabama (both literally and figuratively), to impart his existential impressions and concerns, and to leave his mark before he is gone. – Blurb
And Then I Am Gone is a curious collection of things. Mostly, it’s a diary of a 76-year-old man (Freese). I hope he doesn’t mind but I also think it can be described as the ramblings of a 76-year-old man. Freese jumps around all over the place, telling us about his days, his family, wife, career, thoughts on politics, books, films and neighbors. This is what makes the book so enjoyable to read.
It’s as though we’re privy to a man’s thoughts as they come and go, naturally and freely. Freese is extremely honest and I can’t imagine anyone getting to the end of the book without disagreeing with him at least once or twice.
My favourite parts are when he writes in a more direct style, beginning paragraphs with direct observations: “Today was difficult.” and “Today is the third night of Hanukkah, and Nina is dismantling the artificial Christmas tree.”
Mathias Freese and I couldn’t be more different. He’s a 76-year-old American man. An atheist Jew. A father and a husband. I am a 31-year-old English woman who still writes “girl” and then has to back-space. A spiritualist. A girlfriend and mother only to cats so far.
But to read the honest thoughts of a human being brings about a certain closeness between author and reader. I want to know that people are scared of death, that they still have loving sex in their seventies, that they get riled over their neighbors and are desperate for their families to know how deeply they love them.
Perhaps you think that you don’t need to know these things, that they sound mundane. I think anyone would enjoy this book and find comfort in it. I hope that Mathias finds comfort when people enjoy the read too.
About the Author
Mathias B. Freese is a writer, teacher, and psychotherapist who has authored six books. His I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust won the Beverly Hills Book Awards and the Reader’s Favorite Book Award, and it was a finalist in the Indie Excellence Book Awards, the Paris Book Festival, and the Amsterdam Book Festival. In 2016 Tesserae: A Memoir of Two Summers, his first memoir, received seven awards. – Blurb