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Book review: ‘The Constant Heart’

Special to The Recorder

“The Constant Heart” by Mara Bright (Levellers Press, 199 pages, $17.95)

Mara Bright, who lived in Wendell for many years, has led a fascinating life.

As her publisher notes in the blurb for her new memoir, Bright has spent her life ”seeking adventure and testing herself again and again in the wild, paddling the Allagash, capturing wild goats on an island in the Aegean, fasting in the New Mexico desert, wandering the streets of Istanbul alone and connecting with Spirit through nature and the elements.”

Now in her 60s, the former teacher and librarian has written about her life’s physical and spiritual journey in “The Constant Heart.” The book follows Bright from her youth through her middle years.

Her childhood was not a happy one. The author recalls a demanding mother and a remote father. In her teenage years, she began to define herself through relationships with a variety of men.

Unfortunately, the reader learns, she was not certain enough of her judgment or of herself to choose the right men, or to figure out how to negotiate the parameters of living with the men she chose. As a result, she was often unhappy and frustrated.

The one constant throughout Bright’s adult life, she explains, has been her love of nature and the land. She and her former husband worked a sustainable farm in Petersham for two decades and, again and again, she recalls finding peace — finding herself, in fact — while working, or even just walking, outdoors.

Eventually, Bright writes, she took time away from romantic relationships to explore that connection with nature more fully and to learn to please herself, not just the men in her life.

She found a way to make peace with her elderly mother. She also re-found and rejoiced in her own motherhood as she began to spend more time with her adult children and her small grandchildren.

It is clear that Bright eventually found a new, more balanced romantic love. She deliberately ends her memoir before that romance begins, however. Clearly, she wanted the book to focus on her struggle to find herself, not on her desire to find a man.

“The Constant Heart” is sometimes a frustrating book. While reading I couldn’t help wishing I could help the younger Mara Bright make better decisions about her life and her relationships.

Nevertheless, I found myself admiring her deep vein of frankness. And I would be happy to emulate her openness — despite all her heartache and difficult decisions — to new people and new experiences.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook (www.merrylion.com) and “Pulling Taffy” (www.pullingtaffy.com). She is always looking for new books from Franklin County-related authors to review for this paper. If you have a book suggestion, email her at Tinky@merrylion.com.

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