Foreword Reviews

Nobody Rich or Famous

A Family Memoir

2016 INDIES Finalist
Finalist, Autobiography & Memoir (Adult Nonfiction)

In his new memoir, Nobody Rich or Famous, poet Richard Shelton doesn’t so much tug on the heartstrings as play an entire set upon them.

Rightly subtitled “a family memoir,” the book mixes social history with lyrical vignettes. Shelton becomes researcher and biographer of his own family, the roots of which run deep in Boise, Idaho. He digs into the journals of his grandparents and parents and their struggles coming westward. Like an investigative journalist, he tracks down remnants of their former lives and slowly creates a memorable portrait of an imperfect but distinctly Western family.

The prose is stellar. The sentences flow clearly and then swell with just the right amount of figurative language. Characters like Shelton’s own mother, Hazel, come to fully fleshed life in expertly crafted episodes, including, among other things, a shoot-out in a bar and a terrifying encounter with a mountain lion. Shelton writes of his family members with compassion and tenderness but doesn’t shy away from their flaws. Their shortcomings and struggles give the book its human face.

Perhaps nothing in Nobody Rich or Famous reads as beautifully as Shelton’s evocations of the natural world. From a boy’s perspective, the landscape changes mysteriously from the forested mountains of the Northwest to the vast deserts of Nevada and California. By delineating a personal history in relation to this high and dry environment, Nobody Rich or Famous recalls the best novels and nonfiction of Wallace Stegner. It’s an impressive entry in the literary canon of the American West.

Reviewed by Scott Neuffer

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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