This is an ARC review of Joyce Hocker’s The Trail to Tincup, which releases May 15, 2018
*Special thanks to She Writes Press for allowing us to read and review ahead of publication
Facing the unexpected and shocking deaths of her sister-in-law Dianne, sister and best friend, Janice and both her parents almost back to back, Joyce Hocker found herself falling into a spiraling depression. Dealing with one loss can feel impossible, coping with four deaths from all sides is unconquerable.
Following in the tradition of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights and C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed, Hocker writes frankly and truthfully about the grief she experienced. Having grown up in an incredibly tight-knit family, Hocker writes through a string of losses that kept her confined to her bed most days. She writes her way out of the loneliness she suffered upon her husband and of the depth in her friendships. How the only thing that seemed to pull her out of such gloom was her job as a clinical psychologist, and how even that worked only briefly. Hocker records her dealings with depression and the feeling of grief as a never-ending tunnel that she would not be able to escape from.
But the memoir is far from a downer. While the book is ostensibly about anxiety brought about by the loss of loved ones, Hocker occupies much of her time and energy meditating on life. In brief spurts, Hocker recounts her family’s “memory DNA” — the things that make them extraordinary and consequentially bounded by one another. She writes of learning to let go of physical things while explaining that as long as you love someone you never really have to let them go. She writes on uncovering once and for all the importance of a tender life — to celebrate every breath you’re given and every moment you have with those you hold dearest.
The Trail to Tincup is a deeply introspective memoir. While most memoirs are usually misunderstood as superficially simple — the Hockers aren’t unusual or celebrity in any way — what Hocker presents is quite exceptional. The stories she tells of her family — a like-minded sister, Native American sister-in-law, her pastor’s wife mother and civil rights warrior father — are fascinating and feel universal enough. She picks and tells the stories in a way where the reader never feels weighed down with the unwanted history of a stranger’s relatives but rather as if they were lucky enough to get a glimpse into the lives of truly wonderful people — people they would have been fortunate to have known.
The poetic language and integration of her Jungian philosophies (which emphasize the importance of the individual psyche and the personal quest for wholeness) enriches the meditative power of The Trail to Tincup — this is a book best consumed in long stretches. In all, Hocker’s first memoir is a beautiful narrative of death and love and should be required reading for anyone who’s ever dealt with loss.