By the Iowa Sea (Hardcover)

A Memoir

By Joe Blair

Scribner, 9781451636055, 288pp.

Publication Date: March 6, 2012

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (3/5/2013)

List Price: 24.00*
* Individual store prices may vary.

March 2012 Indie Next List

“This is a perfectly written book about a very complicated family under extraordinary circumstances. A troubled couple, Joe and his wife, along with their four kids, live in Coralville, Iowa, at nightmarish flood tide. Blair knows how families work and knows the sorrow of families working poorly. He also learns the way tragedy can pull things together. His struggles with his wife and learning-disabled son are particularly moving. No one can teach someone to write with Blair's level of honesty and love.”
— Paul Ingram, Prairie Lights Books, Iowa City, IA
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Description

An exquisitely written memoir about the heartbreaks and ecstasies of marriage and fatherhood by a talented new writer from the University of Iowa MFA program.

The anticipated debut of an original American voice, By the Iowa Sea is a wrenching, unsentimental account of the heartbreaks and ecstasies of marriage, fatherhood, and small-town life in the Midwest.

After his first cross-country motorcycle trip, Joe Blair believed he had discovered his true calling. He would travel. He would never cave in to convention. He would never settle down.

Fifteen years later, Joe finds himself living in Iowa, working as an air-conditioning repairman and spending his free time cleaning gutters, taxiing his children, and contemplating marital infidelity. “Our history,” he writes, “gains more weight day by day. And the future seems more and more unlikely to be anything cool at all.” Joe believes it would take an act of great faith or courage to revive in him the passion and promise that once seemed so easy to come by.

What it takes, he discovers, is a disaster. When the Iowa River floods, transforming the familiar streets and manicured lawns of his neighborhood into a terrible and beautiful sea, he begins to question the path that led him to this place.

Exquisitely observed and lyrically recounted, this is a compelling and often humorous account of an ordinary man’s struggle to live an extraordinary life. Joe Blair lays bare the moving, hopeful story of a river that becomes an ocean and a love that is lost and found again, by the Iowa Sea.


About the Author

Joe Blair is a pipefitter who lives in Coralville, Iowa, with his wife and four children. His essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Iowa Review.


Praise For By the Iowa Sea: A Memoir

“An intimate, startling memoir that honors and elevates our quotidian existence. With his contagious curiosity as to what drives him and what holds him back, Blair writes fearlessly and beautifully about the family he loves and also betrays, the people he treasures and plots to escape from. By The Iowa Sea is funny and unsettling, painful and rock and roll romantic, and it has the invigorating ring of truth on every page.”
--Scott Spencer, author of Endless Love and Man in the Woods

"Joe Blair portrays family life and his own emotional life with tremendous courage and a searing honesty. I admired the prose and the story as I read. I finished the book admiring the man.”
--Chris Offutt, author of The Same River Twice

“By the Iowa Sea is a sometimes angry, often startling, and always riveting journey through infidelity, drinking, storms, work, beauty, and the simultaneous frustration and sublimity of raising a disabled child. Blair's writing is vivid, his subjects are heartbreaking, and his ending is flat-out gorgeous.”
--Anthony Doerr, author of Memory Wall

“Joe Blair’s voice is uncommonly perceptive, startlingly honest, and powerfully moving. This is eloquence born of pain, sharpened by humor, and burnished, finally, by understanding and redemption.”
--Ethan Canin, author of Emperor of the Air and America, America

“Blair’s thoughtful memoir displays the strengths and resilience of committed lovers in a tumultuous relationship.”
--Publishers Weekly

By the Iowa Sea is a vivid, sometimes stark but gorgeously developed snapshot of love in perilous times. I think we've found our next John Updike in Joe Blair.”
--Julie Zickefoose, author of Letters From Eden: A Year at Home, In the Woods and The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds

“A devastating flood provides the backdrop for Joe Blair's moving memoir about crisis and change. If you want to understand how a good man can resolve the conflict between his youthful dreams and his adult sense of duty, read this book. His honesty about the real challenges of marriage and parenting is startling in the best sense, and shot through with refreshing humor.”

--Julie Metz, author of The New York Times bestselling memoir, Perfection

“Joe Blair's passion and courage are evident on each page of By the Iowa Sea. He is among those rare writers brave enough to risk everything for his work and the result is this hypnotic, electrifying book.”

--Alexander Maksik, author of You Deserve Nothing

“Joe Blair writes with uncommon openness and pain about the pleasures and difficulties of marriage. He also conjures the beauty of the Iowa landscape--even under water. By the Iowa Sea includes one of the most touchingly funny sex scenes--or should I say--non-sex scenes I’ve read. I am sure women and men will respond to his voice.”

--Anne Taylor Fleming, author of Marriage: A Duet and As If Love Were Enough

"Blair put away his motorcycle and his dreams to do manual labor while supporting four children, one of whom is autistic. Rekindling a sense of purpose took something big: a terrible flood. Not a whiny work; fresh, plain-spoken, and down to earth. Definitely try."
--Library Journal


"A beautifully written story about marriage, responisbility and caring for an autistic child."
--Bookpage

“Some memoirs you read for the feelings they inspire, and some you read to find out how in the heck they’ll turn out. By the Iowa Sea manages to do both with an understanding of so-called ordinary life so raw and true you’ll gasp, and a situation so pressing you’ll tear through the pages. The writer’s unflinching reflection about himself and his choices make this book.”

--Oprah.com

A memoirist with a poet’s soul, [Blair] takes what is arguably the most mercilessly exploited natural resource in all of literature and replenishes it. Blair has an autistic son, Michael…and it is their love story, more than that between Blair and his wife, that lends the tempest and its longed-for destructiveness their emotional valence, and this memoir its observational virtuosity.”

--New York Times Book Review


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