UNDER THE GREAT ELM
A Life of Luck & Wonder
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FINALIST, AMERICAN WRITING AWARDS, 2021
FINALIST, AMERICAN WRITING AWARDS, 2021
From the reviews...
‘’A song celebrating Earth and the open road’’
''Exquisite…A beautifully told, beautiful story – full of poetic writing – picturesque with fine detail. The book would in fact make a wonderful play or movie with adventure, excitement, tragedy, and new love. Richard’s life is a spiritual odyssey… It is a powerful, charming story….Many people will love this book – a song celebrating Earth and the open road.’’ - Robertson Work, author of A Compassionate Civilization: The Urgency of Sustainable Development and Mindful Activism
''Appropriately subtitled "A Life of Luck and Wonder," Rich Flanders' memoir, UNDER THE GREAT ELM, chronicles his days of world travel, spiritual searching, and romantic serendipity with an infectious sense of amazement and curiosity.
We have a fascination for people who live life on their own terms and Flanders definitely fits that bill...
(His) curiosity, wonder, and joy shine through the narrative ...UNDER THE GREAT ELM is not a long story and worthy of a few hours of one's time, if for nothing else than to accompany Flanders on a lifelong session of 'Mystery School”'
''Actor/singer /songwriter/poet Flanders documents an adventurous life well lived in his sweeping and deeply honest memoir.
Flanders spins beautiful prose as he recounts his life’s journey,.. Readers will live vicariously through the author’s varied, adventurous life, which has an abundance of adventure and braveness packed into it. Any reader who believes in second chances and living life to the fullest will devour Flanders’s tale….his Renaissance Man life will inspire readers to realize that it’s never too late to chase a dream.’'
‘’A big picture depiction of a life well-lived....Refreshing simplicity that nevertheless manages to convey the emotional depth of Flanders’ realizations... A heartfelt memoir.’’
‘’A delightful and soul-searching book for any reader…a must read’'
''Under the Great Elm, A Life of Luck & Wonder is recommended for literary readers looking for evocative works that capture life and enlightenment across America. The great elm is the narrator's "companion through the prairie years" of his Western Springs, Illinois childhood. Its sweeping limbs of boyhood refuge and structure introduce a vivid story that moves from Illinois to California in a search for "a better place that would match our expanded spirits."
The author's reflections on the roots of his childhood return in a different form as his story moves away from childhood to a theatrical career on Broadway and adult pursuits: "The asphalt world of New York was soul deadening. In the bleakness of my surroundings, I summoned scenes from the movie Friendly Persuasion and lost myself in a book I'd spotted at an East Village bookstore, Pleasant Valley. Meadows of clover, clear running springs, lowing cows, and a writer named Louis Bromfield, turning sod and reclaiming a farm in the Ohio sunshine, sustained me. Whenever I lost my way in these grey years and forgot what mattered, scenes from Pleasant Valley and its sequel, Malabar Farm, returned me to the land of the "great elm.")
For all its bucolic roots, Under the Great Elm is like an explosion as the narrator moves his experience from rural to urban roots, encounters military and spiritual challenges that both stymie him and open his eyes to the world, and brings readers along on a ride that moves from past lives to present and future expectations
The sea changes and journey move author and readers through spiritual, psychological, and physical changes that shake the foundations of belief and perception alike as the saga moves from America to India and Europe.
The sense of wonder, enchantment, and growth that accompany these journeys provides armchair readers with a "you are there" feel of emotional transformations that are engrossing and, often, unexpected.
The result is a literary piece that belongs in a range of collections, from those that feature autobiographical explorations to others that focus on spiritual or psychological growth opportunities, and the search for a place to truly call home.’'
MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer
‘’Evincing a carpe diem attitude, Under the Great Elm is a globe-trotting memoir.’’
''Rich Flanders’s memoir Under the Great Elm is about a life of adventure and love—as well as a healthy dose of luck.
Opening with his childhood and weaving toward the present, Flanders recounts his life stories with immersive lyricism. The book engages the senses in recalling cozy Parisian bookstores, kibbutz feasts, and a household garden. Visceral descriptions of less comfortable settings are also a draw, as with a traumatic childhood field trip and the persistent pain of grief.
Flanders’s childhood is recalled in idyllic terms, complete with family photographs. He relays stories of summer nights among fireflies and ill-fated childhood business ventures; these tales ooze with Midwestern charm….Reenacting dramatic deaths from Westerns with childhood friends…are the roots of Flanders’s enduring fascination with the American West, and his deep reverence for its Indigenous people.
Luck is a frequent factor in these stories, though not always a source for good: Flanders enlisted in the military just ten days before the assassination of John F. Kennedy Jr., when “the world turned upside down.” Fortunately, he was sent to Paris, though. He was also later accepted into a prestigious arts conservatory in New York City, where he found love with a fellow student, Anne (though circumstances conspired against them). He also performed on Broadway, dove into New Age practices and medicine, met and married a fellow student of the arts, and settled in the Hudson Valley. Later, tragedy struck, unmooring him.
Throughout the book, Flanders delights in everyday pleasures and embraces whatever circumstances he finds himself in. During his four years at a university in San Francisco, he indulges in summer trips into the rugged West, catching a week of work here and there to fund the next leg of his adventures. One such summer trek takes him all the way to Hawaii, whose stunning landscapes and easygoing vibe imprint on his heart, ensuring many return trips.
Flanders’s prose is propulsive and surprising, featuring unexpected turns of phrase, like “I’d sold my blood to pay for the boat passage to Haifa.” Powerful simplicity is preferenced in the book’s descriptions of moments of vulnerability—including around Flanders’s loss of his first wife: “We were one. Now I was half.” Later, a rekindled love is captured in terms of the tender ease of their unspoken understanding.
Evincing a carpe diem attitude, Under the Great Elm is a globe-trotting memoir.''
FOREWORD CLARION REVIEWS
Richard Flanders, a graduate of San Francisco State University and The American Musical & Dramatic Academy, appeared on Broadway in Shenandoah and the first national company of Annie. His albums, Yondering and Ride Away, were each nominated Album of the Year by The Academy of Western Artists and The Western Music Association. He is a recipient of a Stephen Vincent Benet Narrative Poetry Award from Poet Lore magazine, and he received The Will Rogers Cowboy Award from The Academy of Western Artists. His first book, UNDER THE GREAT ELM - A Life of Luck & Wonder, received 5 STARS from Readers Favorite and was a FINALIST in the 2021 AMERICAN WRITING AWARDS.
He and his wife, Anne, live on the Connecticut shoreline, where they perform music together from the Great American Songbook.
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