The Long Field: Wales and the Presence of Absence, a Memoir (Hardcover)
On Our Shelves Now
For readers of H Is for Hawk, an intimate memoir of belonging and loss and a mesmerizing travelogue through the landscapes and language of Wales
Hiraeth is a Welsh word that's famously hard to translate. Literally, it can mean "long field" but generally translates into English, inadequately, as "homesickness." At heart, hiraeth suggests something like a bone-deep longing for an irretrievable place, person, or time—an acute awareness of the presence of absence.
In The Long Field, Pamela Petro braids essential hiraeth stories of Wales with tales from her own life—as an American who found an ancient home in Wales, as a gay woman, as the survivor of a terrible AMTRAK train crash, and as the daughter of a parent with dementia. Through the pull and tangle of these stories and her travels throughout Wales, hiraeth takes on radical new meanings. There is traditional hiraeth of place and home, but also queer hiraeth; and hiraeth triggered by technology, immigration, ecological crises, and our new divisive politics. On this journey, the notion begins to morph from a uniquely Welsh experience to a universal human condition, from deep longing to the creative responses to loss that Petro sees as the genius of Welsh culture. It becomes a tool to understand ourselves in our time.
A finalist for the Wales Book of the Year Award and named to the Telegraph's and Financial Times's Top 10 lists for travel writing, The Long Field is an unforgettable exploration of “the hidden contours of the human heart.”
About the Author
Pamela Petro is a writer, artist, and educator and the author of four books, including Sitting Up with the Dead: A Storied Journey through the American South (published by Arcade) and Travels in an Old Tongue: Touring the World Speaking Welsh. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Atlantic, Granta, Guernica, Paris Review, and others. Pamela teaches creative writing at Smith College and in Lesley University’s MFA Program, and is codirector of the Dylan Thomas Summer School at the University of Wales, where she is a fellow. Pamela is also a visual artist who lives in Northampton, MA, with her partner, Marguerite, and Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Topaz.
Finalist for the Wales Book of the Year Award and a Financial Times and Telegraph Top Ten Travel Book of the Year
"Enchanting . . . Forty years after her first encounter with Wales, Pamela Petro has written a memoir that's a love letter to the distinctive country and the spirit it engenders in her. . . .Readers who have traveled to Wales will relish her ability to summon that experience with a profoundly observant eye and prose that, at times, possesses an almost poetic quality. And it won't be surprising if those who've never had the pleasure of visiting this distinctive land will be struck by the urge to do so after reading her thoughtful, evocative memoir."—Shelf Awareness
“Wonderful turns of phrase and open-hearted candor make this sing. . . . An excellent memoir.”—Publishers Weekly
“Her love for Wales bursts into full bloom in . . . The Long Field, now published in the US after being released in the UK, where it was a finalist for Wales Book of the Year. It weaves together stories of Wales with tales from Petro’s own life, exploring challenges and triumphs in both Welsh culture and in the author’s personal journey.”—Washington Independent.
"Deftly crafted, candid, inherently fascinating, exceptional, memorable, The Long Field: Wales and the Presence of Absence, a Memoir is a compelling, eloquent, and innately interesting life story told against a Welch backdrop. Especially and unreservedly recommended."—Midwest Book Review
“Not since Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek have I felt so involved, as a reader, in ‘finding out what it all means.’ This is a beautifully written, un-put-downable book about language, love, and being alive, here, now.”—Gillian Clarke, former National Poet of Wales
“The Long Field urges each of us to bravely follow unfamiliar maps and to travel through our history and longing into our newly discovered present. This beautifully written and elegant exploration of landscape and culture is full of intimate truth and insight about what it means to search for and find home and belonging.”—Hester Kaplan, Flannery O’Connor Award–winning author of The Edge of Marriage
"An absorbing meditation on the meaning of home."—Sunday Telegraph, "Best Travel Books of the Year"
“In her powerful memoir of Wales and poetic meditation on the Welsh language, Petro has given Americans the essential vocabulary to describe what's in our deepest heart.”—Ruth Ozeki, award-winning author of The Book of Form and Emptiness
“In soulful, richly nuanced language, Pam Petro takes us on an unforgettable journey through the rugged, unsubdued topography of one of the Celtic world’s most evocative landscapes, Wales. That, in itself, is a deep pleasure. But it is the parallel journey through the hidden contours of the human heart that makes this book a triumph. Read The Long Field. You’ll be so happy that you did.”—David Elliott, New York Times bestselling author of Bull
“Pamela Petro's extraordinary sensitivity for atmosphere catches the feel, smell, and sensation of being in Wales brilliantly. She honours hiraeth as a lens through which to consider the nature of home, travel, and invention. Both playful and serious, this memoir looks deep into the long field that separates and unites us, placing it squarely in a geography of love.”—Gwyneth Lewis, former National Poet of Wales
“The Long Field is a literary Celtic knot of quite exquisite power. . . . Hiraeth is Petro’s topic and her muse, and here she draws out its many strands and plaits them into one iridescently lovely book.”—Mike Parker, author of the Rough Guide to Wales and On the Red Hill, finalist for the Wainwright Prize and the Wales Book of the Year
“An exquisite unfolding of the truths of language and the human heart.”—Jay Griffiths, author of A Sideways Look at Time
“Beautifully, exquisitely written, and so moving and honest. I loved everything about it. This is a spectacular book, and one I’ll be thinking about and talking about for a long time to come.”—Talking About Books
"Petro writes with passion and precision in a style that is both intimate and profound. She digs into the landscape of Wales and that of her own life in America to unearth not stones, but deep truths with which she surprises and delights the reader."—Menna Elfyn, poet and author Bondo and other collections
“For Pamela Petro, home is ‘a condition of the soul,’ and The Long Field is her beautiful rumination on the complexities of that condition gleaned from her own unforeseen affinity for Wales—its history, its landscape, its communities. Petro is a fearless writer who asks the difficult questions of place as she examines what our longings mean for ourselves and our world. And she is an assured writer, seamlessly braiding diverse narratives together with precise and evocative prose, all of which makes The Long Field an essential inquiry into our understanding of culture, place, and love."—Jane Brox, author of Brilliant
“How could a book about loss leave its reader feeling so fortunate? Because Pamela Petro writes with incomparable insight about absence as inspiration, and about longing as the necessary precondition for art and creativity, even love. At once erudite and utterly approachable, The Long Field is a brilliant blend of travelogue, memoir, and cultural meditation. It offers a path from longing to belonging.”—Michael Lowenthal, author of Charity Girl
“The Long Field is more than a beautiful memoir of the author's longtime fascination with Wales. It is a profound and sparkling exploration of ideas of home, loss, love, family, and sexuality. You come away from it not just in awe of her ability to seamlessly weave all of these themes into a rich and moving narrative, but with something much deeper: a new view of the world and your place in it.”—Thomas Swick, author of The Joys of Travel