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So begins this gritty and intimate memoir as it unveils the unmistakable, indelible love between a woman and the father she knows almost entirely from a cache of letters sent from a lifetime on the road.
Conceived in San Francisco at the height of the counterculture movement, Kennerly Clay was born to parents who embodied the hippie spirit. From their first encounter at a student activism meeting, to protesting the Vietnam War, and lured west to embrace the Haight-Ashbury utopia of hard partying and rock n’ roll, they lived the full measure of the Sixties life. But as the hippie culture waned with the end of the Sixties, so did the bonds that held their small family together.
Letters from East of Nowhere is a deeply personal tale about the consequences of a life free of commitments against a backdrop of wandering, music, and overindulgence. It was the free-spirited lifestyle romanticized in Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel On The Road that beckoned to Kennerly’s father. It led him to a lifetime of failed relationships, mishaps with the law, and a never-ending struggle with alcoholism. Aside from booze, the only constant in his life was his passion for the written word, and throughout the years he sent letters, poetry, and expressions of his undying love for his children.
While Kennerly Clay paints an earnest personal portrait of her father, woven together from letters and rare visits, at the heart of this story is a tale of inspiration and personal discovery. The uncovering of some of life’s more important moments that were lost in her childhood, and others newly found . It’s an unflinching reckoning of the wake that ripples through a family when one is gripped in the clutches of addiction.
But as addiction often begets itself from one generation to another, this father’s true gift was passed to his oldest daughter. Despite his wandering life and occasional forays through seedy worlds, he remained a talented and creative soul who often dreamed of writing his own great American novel. The letters he sent to family and friends along the way were often full of wit and wisdom, and a cultural perspective that only a life on the open road could provide. Now his daughter has embraced his love of the written word as well.
In the writing of Letters from East of Nowhere, Kennerly Clay has found her own voice, delivering a wonderfully honest reflection on life, on the passionate craziness of the Sixties, and on learning to love a man who would always choose alcohol over everything else.