When we diligently read our history books as part of our school’s curriculum, we learn about the famous men and women who earned their spot in print as world leaders, great businessmen, explorers, military heroes, or even criminals. While all aspects of history fascinate me, I must confess that my interest has always been more with the everyday folks who loved their families, took pride in their work, and, although they may never be studied in a classroom, made a lasting impact on the people who knew them. My ninety-eight-year-old grandmother has an amazing memory and can recount in detail an incident that happened with a playmate in 1917. She is also a musician who shares songs and piano melodies that remind her of being a teenager or raising her children during a war. I know from her that the retelling of family history and traditions is the best way to capture a picture of a bygone era. I have discovered a treasure that beautifully captures this appreciation for the warmth of family and home. The new audio book Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry & Music by Janet Riehl is a compilation of very personal music and poetry that is not to be missed.
Riehl’s audio book developed from her written text, Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary, which was published in 2006. With the new release, Riehl adds the elements of down-home music and her own voice bringing life to the poems she created. The musical component features her father’s singing and fiddle playing as he is joined by other musicians for recordings that took place in his living room. The fact that the music was not performed in a high-tech professional studio makes its inclusion even more appealing and appropriate. As you listen to old friends gather to play music, you feel so fortunate to be let into the intimate gathering. I felt that I should be sitting in a rocking chair with my eyes closed as I let the simple beauty fill my soul. Each piece provides a seamless transition for the subjects of the poems it connects.
The poems by Janet Riehl are divided into five groupings that are spread over four CDs. The first section is devoted to her sister Julia (also known as Skeeter), who was tragically killed in a car crash several years ago. The emotional images Riehl creates through her words examine Julia’s work, her love of life, the moment of her death, and the longing of those she left behind. Riehl goes on to share equally captivating poetry about her father, her mother, and two places that have special meaning to her— the family home in Evergreen Heights and her later residence of Clear Lake in Northern California. In addition to the poems themselves, Riehl provides emotional commentary that fills in the missing pieces and develops a more complete memory for the listeners to enjoy. Her words are straightforward, beautifully crafted, and offer a wonderful piece of storytelling.
From beginning to end, the new audio book Sightlines: A Family Love Story in Poetry & Music is a delight for its listeners. The passion that Janet Riehl has for her family, her history, and the beauty that surrounds her is obvious. Even if you already read the printed version of Sightlines: A Poet’s Diary when it was released several years ago, you will want to enjoy the extra features and meaning that are offered through this listening experience as well. The audio segments have been expertly compiled and edited to create the comfortable atmosphere of someone’s home while also displaying professional detail to recording quality and content progression. Each moment of the CDs is filled with warmth, humor, and a deep connection to those who have come before us. Sightlines is a must-have audio book for anyone who appreciates a good love story with the perfect musical accompaniment!