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reviews Slow Road Home

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Fred First is a biologist, photographer, and writer who did what many simply dream of.


Several years ago he quit his “day job,” moved to a small farm nestled in the Blue Ridge, and set out to live as deliberately as he could, fully in the spirit of Thoreau.  Living in an old farm house near a creek in Floyd County, Virginia, First is a keen observer and avid chronicler of his self-professed “love for the Blue Ridges of these ancient Appalachians.”  He’s been writing about his life in the Appalachians in his blog, Fragments from Floyd. Using the same general structure he uses in his blog­—short, thematic essays running a few pages each—First brings his Floyd musings to print in this fine volume, Slow Road Home.


First is a naturalist with a photographer’s eye for detail, and he brings these skills to the page.  The result is a series of carefully crafted, largely bucolic vignettes that capture the natural beauty of Floyd County. He reports on the angle of the corn stalks in the field, the variety of flowers in the fields, and the way the snow blankets the hills. Days unfold, as the subtitle implies, but the pace is intentionally slow, allowing time for observation, musing, contemplation and reflection.


There is much reflection in this memoir, as First reveals how he ended up in Floyd, and expands on what his journey means. There is much that is purely in the moment, as when he runs errands with his beloved Labrador Retriever, or when  he gleefully awaits a meteor shower, or when he waxes fondly about the joys of wild berries. On the surface, especially when rendered in the brief sentences of this review, First’s concerns may seem mundane and quotidian. This is not the case, for First offers hints of subtle transcendence while rendering his impressions clearly and beautifully in succinct prose.


This is, above all else, a book about the simple joys of living in Appalachia, of watching the seasons pass, of casting your eye across hills and forests as you go about your daily tasks. Chopping wood, strolling by the creek, taking the dog for a walk—in each of these events, First finds something to savor.  He reminds us of the beauty of stopping and looking as we move through our lives, keeping ever mindful that the road itself is, in fact, the destination. 



Review by Gene Hyde

Appalachian Collection Librarian

Radford University, Radford, Virginia


This review appeared in the Winter 2007 issue of Appalachian Voice

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