As she began remodeling "Mary Jane's house" in Ancram, she recalls, "I was guided . . . by an unconscious formed in the darkness of 1010 Main and reformed in the inescapable brightness of Cleveland Street. . . . The goal I set myself was providing each room with plentiful natural light without opening up the space so much that it ran wild through the house." One room, small and dim, she converted into a closet. "Only years later," she writes, "did I realize that this turnabout was my best revenge upon 1010 Main."
The year she bought her house her mother was ill and she worked with a sense of urgency, aware that "my sudden desire to create a home was linked by more than circumstance to the sudden likelihood of my mother's death." She was also discovering that home did not mean structure. "I was aware that whenever I left New York to join my parents, I said I was flying 'home,' and that whenever I returned to New York, I also said I was flying 'home.'" And later, "As long as my parents lived, home could be a shifting site. In a world minus them, I would need to fix myself in place."
It is in Ancram that Schreiber has "fixed herself," at least for now. The "lady who bought Mary Jane's house" has become "the lady who lives in the gray house with the big yellow cat, who fishes and writes about it." When a phrase gets too long, says Schreiber, "you get a name, and you hope it is one you would want to answer to. After ten years my name has spread a little ways through town, but not far."
It is here, in her fixed place, that Schreiber ultimately feels "the full impact of what I had become — the lone survivor of a natural disaster wandering in the wasteland of my family's destruction." It is here, too, where nothing in her environment goes unseen, unexamined or unappreciated, that she finds her comfort and survival: in swimming, in dreams, in memories, in friendship, in the study of Einstein's theory of space-time, in nature — and in light.
Reviewer Emily d'Aulaire writes from her home in Redding, Connecticut.