In a time of desolation, Thomas Becknell is drawn to the Mississippi River, then caught by its powers of enchantment. He sets out to learn about the river's great allure, to be near it and to ponder what it might show him.
Enchantments of the Mississippi takes readers on a contemplative journey of time and place. It does not follow a linear path from source to sea. Rather, its chapters are shaped by topography and memory. Its sequence is the mystery of the river's unfolding.
From the darkness of the gorge and the time in which he writes—through the river's many confluences, around a great bend, and from vistas atop the river's bluffs—this book tells a story of falling in love with the currents of time, the beauty of life, and the consolation of spirit.
Thomas Becknell grew up on the plains and prairies of Wyoming and Nebraska. He received his PhD from the University of Iowa and taught literature and writing in Saint Paul, Minnesota, for thirty-five years. His early love of stories, creeks, and streams led to a later fascination with the Mississippi River, and to the writing of this book.
Kari Vick's childhood home was perched on the edge of a bluff above the Mississippi River in Red Wing, Minnesota. Bright lights of passing barges lit up her bedroom walls at night as lonely trains whistled their way along the river valley far below. She kayaked the slinky river bottoms with her husband, Jim, a kindred river rat. They now live and paddle along the north shore of Lake Superior in Lutsen, Minnesota. This is the ninth book she has illustrated.
"Thomas Becknell has taken a deep and lingering look into one of our greatest rivers. Folded into the ripples of water and time are stories upon stories, and Becknell brings to us their beauty as well as their relevance. Read this for the history, the drama, and the poetry. Read it for the writer's voice, which leads us like a faithful, lively current, taking us to distinct points along the shore, to footprints and voices that belonged to us before we even knew them." - Vinita Hampton Wright, author of "The Art of Spiritual Writing"
"'I approach the Mississippi,' Becknell writes, 'with a kind of holy terror.' Be forewarned: this quiet lyrical book will not be a travelogue. Far from it. Becknell sees the dark of the river as well as the light. He is open to its role in slavery, genocide, religious fanaticism. But he also finds spiritual enlightenment and companionship, as Longfellow, Twain and Thoreau whisper in his ear their visions of riverine grandeur. 'I want to be spellbound,' Becknell adds. You will be, too." - Sue Leaf, author of "Minnesota’s Geologist: The Life of Newton Horace Winchell" and "A Love Affair with Birds: The Life of Thomas Sadler Roberts"
"Thomas Becknell invites us to join him as he sets out to find some spiritual connections and a sense of the sacred along the banks of the Upper Mississippi River. His search leads him from his own Twin Cities home to select points south, and to such towns as Prescott, Grafton, Nauvoo, and Hannibal. This exploration is about both geography and humanity. Through his own travels and readings, Thomas—and we—learn more about the circumstances that have led various people to gather along the banks of the Great River, over the years. By the conclusion of this memoir, we may all agree with something American author and naturalist Henry David Thoreau once wrote: 'What a piece of wonder a river is.' He had traveled along this part of the Mississippi, too." - Corinne H. Smith, author of "Westward I Go Free: Tracing Thoreau’s Last Journey"
"In his exploration of 'the terrible and wonderful river that is the Mississippi,' Thomas Becknell draws on personal experience, local river lore and history, and beautifully integrated research provided by various river guardians and guides. Becknell's writing is precise and lyrical. This is a book to savor." - Lisa Knopp, author of "What the River Carries: Encounters with the Mississippi, Missouri, and Platte"
"Thomas Becknell draws on deeply reflective personal experience and wide reading in the literature and histories of the Mississippi River to create this wonderfully evocative book. This lyrical account highlights the complexities and paradoxes of America's greatest river. What a great, distinctive read!" - Patrick Nunnally, founding editor of "Open Rivers: Rethinking Water, Place, and Community," and lecturer, University of Minnesota