Finding Beauty in a Broken World by Terry Tempest Williams
Pantheon Books, New York, 2008
First of all, I need to say that Terry Tempest Williams is a hero of mine. I have felt that way since reading Refuge and that admiration doubled after she wrote The Open Space of Democracy, published by The Orion Society. I find her writing lyrical, beautiful and filled with strength.
When I first started reading Finding Beauty in a Broken World I was not sure where it was going. What was the author doing in Ravenna,Italy, learning an ancient art form? I found I wasn’t letting myself really take in what Williams was saying. I had to stop and start over, bringing the attention to the words that Williams asks of her readers. Then I got it and had to take it in like a cool drink after a long, hot hike.
Mosaics are made of things that are beautiful and broken, much like human beings. Williams creates a mosaic of words, bringing together disparate ideas, her travels to Italy, the fragility of a Prairie Dog populations and the struggles Rawanda faces after genocide. There is much sadness and suffering here and yet, through the work of human hands, the same hands that are so capable of destruction, something lovely is built and healing can begin.
The author shows us stories from her own life, tells of her own fear, her own breaking apart through personal and national loss. It is a beautiful, difficult book and. in the end, miraculous.
“We cannot understand social problems without looking at historical roots. It is impossible to change society without changing the societal stories. We must listen to the stories being told on the ground by those who have survived the abuses of power, those who bear witness and embody the resiliency of the human spirit. And resiliency is what I see in Rawanda.” from page 285