Leigh Newman is one of my favorite writers. I’ve long been a fan of her column on Oprah.com, where she is the deputy editor. Her voice is sincere, charming, witty and soothing all at once; I find myself turning to her articles time and again when I need some friendly advice, tough love or gentle perspective. The last sentence of her byline reads, “She believes in making your own popcorn, embarrassing your kids by writing I LOVE YOU in red frosting on their lunch sandwiches, and owning dogs that are just too big to fit in the bed.” She’s so likable on paper that you can’t help but want to be her friend.
I was fortunate enough to meet Leigh in person a few months back and she did not disappoint. After expressing my appreciation for her writing and blurting out my 50 favorite articles off the top of my head, I told her how I couldn’t wait to read her first book, a memoir called Still Points North. She told me she was “grateful” and “honored,” and I walked away from our meeting even more enamored.
In Still Points North, which will be released on March 19, Newman reveals her own struggles for connection and understanding. At age 7, when her parents divorce suddenly, she is caught shuffling between two very different worlds: Alaska (where she lives with dad stacking firewood, pumping the water well, and gutting fish) and Baltimore (where she lives with mom studying Latin poetry and attending an all-girls private school). Later she trots the globe solo as a travel writer. Newman shares honestly and vividly how the vast contrast in lifestyles as a child shaped her, leaving her fiercely independent and self-reliant. But this is not such a good thing. It has a long term effect on her adult relationships — in her marriage — as she learns not to get attached to others; to leave them before they leave her first.
But Leigh learns to navigate her demons over time to become the woman is she today. Now a wife and mother, Still Points North is ultimately a love story. Leigh writes with honesty and humor about the tests she’s been given, and I now understand why all of her essays have always struck me as poignant. Leigh Newman is a gifted writer with a compelling story to share.