In essays that take us from the field where flight 93 crashed on 9/11 to a bumpy road between two concentration camps at Treblinka, Colin Rafferty contemplates the personal in the public memorials marking some of history’s most tragic events. Part memoir, part new journalism, part lyric, and part immersion, Hallow This Ground (Indiana University Press, 2016) is more than a collection of essays. Rafferty leads the reader to a complete whole as thematic ties bind these essays together even as, individually, they stand alone.
At a time when Civil War monuments are hotly debated, Rafferty reminds us that a memorial, no matter which side of history you are on, is at best an approximation of the people and events it attempts to honor. And as we see the experience of each place grow personal for the author, we can’t help but bring our own experience to the read as well, creating a book that is so many things at once—warm, thoughtful, timely, informative, and wholly enjoyable.