I had the privilege of being a pre-publication reader of my friend Cheryl Unruh's book, Flyover People: Life on the Ground in a Rectangular State and I was going to tell you all about it at the time, but then she posted her cover and I thought how nice it would be to post a review on the eve of publication. I could go on and on talking all about me, of course, and the dozens of reasons this blog and my Sunday Book Review, in particular, have taken a back seat to life, but that would fail to achieve the point. Let's just stop with better late than never.
Flyover People is a collection of essays about my state -- Kansas. Yep, I'll claim it, though Cheryl is the one who has put it into words, what it means to be from Kansas, to choose Kansas, to love Kansas and its people.
Memories and experiences become part of who we are. Kansas seeps into our cells, reconfigures our DNA, claims us as its own. If we leave, it follows.And from another essay...
We never lose this sense of being grounded, of knowing who we are and why we're here, of being nurtured by the soil and the grass and the stars.Cheryl is the person who pays attention to the roadside ditches, the dusty roads, and the small town corner stores, and makes you want to look again, to pay attention too. She's a person who appreciates what I love about Kansas and takes the time to put it into words. I love reading her weekly columns in the newspaper and I love the collection she has put together for this book.
But it's not just a love of wide open sky that Cheryl writes about. She shares bits and pieces of herself, as well, and you get to know the small towns of our state as you catch little glimpses of the girl who grew up in a place called Pawnee Rock and constructed tin can telephones and began her writing career at the Larned Tiller and Toiler newspaper.
Cheryl's essays have always made me want to slow down, take a back road to get where I'm going, and look a bit harder at each signpost I pass by. I want to share these gems with Kansas doubters -- my Houstonian friends who wondered why on earth I'd return to such a place as Kansas, the California transplants who seem incapable of seeing Kansas beauty, and the friends from other states who wonder why I will not leave.
I'm sure there's a lot to be appreciated about other places and people, but Kansas is my place. Kansans are my people. Maybe it really is as deep as my DNA. Life on the ground in a rectangle state is pretty good, and my friend Cheryl captures it beautifully.