Joe and Deb Blair left New England on a whim and a motorcycle, stalled out in Iowa, pleased with its space, the light and each other. Then came a house and another mouth to feed, and another, and twins, one of whom has autism. After twenty or so years of marriage and fixing boilers, Joe wrote a book about their marriage: By the Iowa Sea:a memoir.
Importantly, Blair sees the ark in his story: “It all begins with rain. . . . We are starfish looking up at the waves.” From that watery image he takes us through his days as husband and father, not claiming heroism in either role. He works, falls in and out of love, takes patient care of his troubling and troubled son. The book could be a novel for the way it develops, but it isn’t. For one thing, there is no villain in the book, just a family trying to grow and not grow apart.
Why do I care about this book? Why did I hand it to the librarian with full commentary, instead of just sliding it into the book return? Let’s start with honesty and good writing, the fact that these qualities can make almost any life a good read. Take a hardworking pipe fitter and his hardworking wife, add their four children, and there it is: a lesson in facing adversity–whether it’s a catastrophic flood or the unending needs of a child with a disability. In how to admit flaws to the world and to each other, without whining. I hate whining. Most of all, this memoir is a lesson in how to love ones spouse and children, especially the son who experiences the world differently. I see the world a little differently, having read By the Iowa Sea.