HUMOR / PERSONAL ESSAYS
October 25, 2018
ISBN: 0988986337; 348 pages
If you’ve read any of Sonja Klein’s three previous books (Honk If You Married Sonja, Roundtrip from Texas, and Ambushed by America), you already know to expect the unexpected from her well-written and often hilarious or poignant personal essays.
For example, she cautions that her new work, Saplings, Switches, and Twigs, is not really about trees. The central focus, instead, is on “the sturdy roots and branches of a family, similar to a tree and to all trees that grow for short periods or for centuries and give seed to more of the same. From most trees, there are saplings, switches, and twigs, some of which mature into strong limbs, branches and trees, and some of which die, are broken off, and never mature, but return to fertilize and replenish the earth. Similarities exist with families. This book is partly about them.”
Partly, it turns out, is a key word. Along with family, her wide-ranging topics include life, love, international travel, food, ex-husbands and ex-boyfriends, and even the occasional Jeep she has killed off through a combination of rugged Southwest Texas driving and maintenance neglect.
As she confesses in one description of life on her ranch: “Distraction abounds at Ambush Hill. With sheep, multiple houses and barns, and abundant wildlife, there is no shortage of episodes, events, or chaotic crises.”
Reading Saplings, Switches, and Twigs is much like listening to a good friend tell engrossing, well-focused and sometimes salty stories, one after another, yet never at tiring lengths. Sonja Klein’s crisply worded essays often are just a few pages long. Meanwhile, her topics can jump—with surprising smoothness--from wild hogs to French perfume and from getting lost on her own ranch to believing in “going solo” when dealing with problems that most people have difficulty handling alone.
She also describes her family’s German heritage as well as her delight at riding in a restored World War II German Leopard tank on a West Texas ranch that celebrates “pride in our American military successes.” She expected the tank trip to be jerky and jarring. Instead, “[t]he turns were cool, the ride was smooth, and I can honestly say that the experience superseded my rides on a camel in the Sahara and an elephant in Cambodia.”
At age 75, Sonja Klein writes that her desire to experience and learn new things remains “unquenchable.” Yet, there can be complications. For example, while teaching herself how to cook meats and vegetables outside, “[m]emories of past spouses intrude[d], and I [found] myself reflecting on their grilling abilities. Husband one was not consistent, often got drunk and burned or neglected outside grilling. Husband two was an excellent inside chef, made mayonnaise from scratch, roux, Cajun creations, a fabulous cook. Husband three couldn’t cook a boiled egg. Husband four bragged about burning anything cooked outside. No husband five is in the future so the thirst for knowledge now encompasses outdoor cooking, grilling with propane, and learning more about the various woods, charcoal, and basting sauces.”
Saplings, Switches, and Twigs is at once entertaining and thought-provoking reading, and the author’s essays can be savored in almost any order as stand-alone stories.
Sonja Klein is a writer, solo traveler, avid reader, and ranch owner in a remote area of Texas with abundant wildlife and spring waters. She is the author of three non-fiction books.