A Private History of Awe

Sanders, a sage of the Midwest, uses autobiography as a vehicle for far-reaching reflections on nature and humankind.


Here he considers awe, that “rapturous, fearful, bewildering emotion.” Writing with the plainspoken precision and wholesomeness he’s cherished for, Sanders revisits his boyhood, singling out moments of awe instigated by the glory of nature, his tempestuous father and steadfast mother, and painful awakenings to death, racism, and war (during the 1950s they lived within a heavily guarded bomb-making compound in Ohio).
As Sanders comes of age, he struggles to reconcile his budding passion for science with his family’s religious practice. Then in college, he drops physics, appalled by science’s connections to the military and the Vietnam War. Interleaved among vivid memories are graceful present-day reports on the joy radiating from his baby granddaughter and the sorrows attendant on caring for his Alzheimer’s–afflicted mother. Sanders’ thoughtful reflections on the cycles of life, the flashpoints of awe, and our quest for meaning are quietly revelatory. Donna Seaman
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