Sarahlee Lawrence: River House | Entertainment Picks | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

Sarahlee Lawrence: River House 

Saturday Nov. 20 @ The King’s English Bookshop

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Of all the places to be stuck with a desert yearning, Sarahlee Lawrence was overcome with homesickness while in Peru’s jungle along the mighty Tambopata River. As Lawrence’s memoir River House opens amid a nearly death-defying trip, she unveils her central idea: After running away from home—like many 20-somethings—to study, advocate water policy and raft the world’s wildest rivers, she realizes her need to return to Central Oregon—the geography that helped chisel her character. Her inquiry into her place of origin beckons.

Lawrence’s voice, like the desert, is beautiful in its simplicity, while she herself embodies the strong womanhood of the American West. She can ride whitewater, work the land, operate heavy machinery or wax poetically at any given time; the reader comes to know her well. Like her many skills, this debut book is versatile—resembling, at intervals, a memoir, nature-adventure writing and easily digestible rural philosophy.

Once in Oregon, Lawrence details building a log cabin on her parents’ 40-acre plot, nearly nail by nail, with her hay-farmer father, whom she painstakingly tries to understand in her newfound quest to rediscover her roots. Her new life isn’t all sunshine and sagebrush, as she deals with his stubbornness—she’s similar to him in many ways—a sometimes-stoic mother and the desert’s harsh elements.

Her simple prose makes her adventures in construction, gardening and horsetending seem as thrilling as Tambopata’s rapids. Lawrence’s writing is honest and, like the river that begins her memoir, raw. Today, she’ll read select passages, with a signing to follow.

Sarahlee Lawrence: River House @ The King’s English Bookshop, 1511 S. 1500 East, 801-484-9100, Nov. 20, 2 p.m., free.

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