Recovering Ruth


Recovering Ruth

A Biographer's Tale

Robert Root

191 pages
Illus., maps


May 2003


$30.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

The task of editing and annotating a nineteenth-century diary seemed straightforward at first, but as Robert Root assembled scattered fragments of lost history and immersed himself in background research, he became enmeshed in unexpected ways. When doubts arose about who really wrote the journal, Root found himself plunged into a mystery of lost identity, drawn ever deeper into the drama and complexity of forgotten lives and engaged in a quest at times both compulsive and quixotic. Part memoir, part meditation on the nature of biography, Recovering Ruth is the absorbing story of recovering a hidden past—and of learning firsthand the complications of intimacy that develop between a biographer and his subject.

Author Bio

Robert Root, a professor of English at Central Michigan University, has written or edited ten books on a variety of topics including the teaching of writing and the composing of nonfiction. Among his most recent books are Time by Moments Steals Away: The 1848 Journal of Ruth Douglass, The Island Within Us: Isle Royale Artists-in-Residence 1991–1998, The Fourth Genre: Contemporary Writers of/on Creative Nonfiction, and E. B. White: The Emergence of an Essayist.


“Here is essaying at its very best—search and salvage, test and measure—mining the language for what’s precious and rare. In Recovering Ruth, Robert Root works rich intersecting veins of history and humanity, biography and self-discovery, people, places, lives, and times. The reader is the richer for it.”—Thomas Lynch, author of The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade

Recovering Ruth beautifully illustrates how one life can inform another, even across the boundaries of time and place. Written with consummate skill and grace, Root’s story speaks to the human quest for meaning and connection through narrative.”—Kim Barnes, author of In the Wilderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country

"The belief that affect is a crucial component to life writing is attested to by the empathy the reader feels for Root, his project, and his subject, Ruth. As a biographer, Root employs a diversity of research techniques and texts to document his subject. . . . Root's enthusiasm for his work and his dedication to recovering the life of a fogotten woman are laudable."—Susan Friedman, biography

“Root’s biographer’s tale is a curious combination of history and personal discovery that carries the reader back and forth through time.”—Mary Isca, The Grand Rapids Press


2004 Michigan Notable Books, sponsored by the Library of Michigan, selection

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