A USA TODAY BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR (★★★★)
"Little and Often is a beautiful memoir of grief, love, the shattered bond between a father and son, and the resurrection of a broken heart. Trent Preszler tells his story with the same level of art and craftsmanship that he brings to his boat making, and he reminds us of creativity's power to transform and heal our lives. This is a powerful and deeply moving book. I won't soon forget it." --Elizabeth Gilbert
Trent Preszler thought he was living the life he always wanted, with a job at a winery and a seaside Long Island home, when he was called back to the life he left behind. After years of estrangement, his cancer-stricken father had invited him to South Dakota for Thanksgiving. It would be the last time he saw his father alive.
Preszler's only inheritance was a beat-up wooden toolbox that had belonged to his father, who was a cattle rancher, rodeo champion, and Vietnam War Bronze Star Medal recipient. This family heirloom befuddled Preszler. He did not work with his hands--but maybe that was the point. In his grief, he wondered if there was still a way to understand his father, and with that came an epiphany: he would make something with his inheritance. Having no experience or training in woodcraft, driven only by blind will, he decided to build a wooden canoe, and he would aim to paddle it on the first anniversary of his father's death.
While Preszler taught himself how to use his father's tools, he confronted unexpected revelations about his father's secret history and his own struggle for self-respect. The grueling challenges of boatbuilding tested his limits, but the canoe became his sole consolation. Gradually, Preszler learned what working with his hands offered: a different per-spective on life, and the means to change it.
Little and Often is an unflinching account of bereavement and a stirring reflection on the complexities of inheritance. Between his past and his present, and between America's heartland and its coasts, Preszler shows how one can achieve reconciliation through the healing power of creativity.
"Insightful, lyrical...Little and Often proves to be a rich tale of self-discovery and reconciliation. Resonating with Robert Pirsig's classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, it is a profound father-and-son odyssey that discovers the importance of the beauty of imperfection and small triumphs that make extraordinary happen." --USA Today (★★★★)
- ISBN-13: 9780062976642
- ISBN-10: 0062976648
- Publisher: William Morrow & Company
- Publish Date: April 2021
- Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Page Count: 304
Little and Often
Trent Preszler’s memoir, Little and Often, opens with a phone call. It’s from his dad, Leon, from whom Trent has been estranged for years, inviting him to come home to South Dakota for Thanksgiving. At 37, Trent is at a high point professionally. He’s the CEO of a Long Island vineyard, he mingles with celebrities and his house has an idyllic view of Peconic Bay. But his personal life tells a different story: Divorced after a brief marriage, he’s working too much, drinking too much and has distanced himself from his friends.
As Trent makes the long drive home, he contemplates his years growing up in flyover country. His parents eked out a marginal existence raising cattle on a South Dakota ranch, 145 miles from the nearest McDonald’s. Leon was always the strong one, a former rodeo champion whose favorite book of the Bible was Job. Long ago, Leon made it clear that he didn’t accept Trent’s sexuality as a gay man—but during this visit, Leon surprises Trent by asking about his ex. Not long after this, Leon dies from cancer, and Trent loses his chance to reconnect.
Leon has left Trent two items, his toolbox and a taxidermied duck. As he ponders his dad’s tools, Trent makes an odd decision: He will build a canoe. The remainder of the memoir details Trent’s quixotic project as he teaches himself about different kinds of wood, power-tool skills and the patience to fail and try again. “Little and often makes much,” he remembers his dad saying, coaching teenage Trent through a difficult project. Throughout the book, the narrative returns to such father-son episodes, evoking ranch life with its biblical weather, rattlesnakes, long horseback rides, cattle auctions and rodeos.
The writing in Little and Often is lucid and sometimes lyrical, building on unexpected connections, such as the geological links between South Dakota and Long Island. As the narrative walks the reader through the process of hand-building a canoe, we see Trent reconsidering his parents’ lives and his own, and finding calm and trust in himself.