Trent Preszler, born and raised on a farm, longed to live in New York since watching The Muppets Take Manhattan in a 1986 Faith, S.Dak., theater. He made the dream a reality: he earned two degrees at Cornell and, then, as CEO of Bedell Cellars, created the merlot served at Barack Obama's inauguration. Yet his successes were haunted by his estranged father Leon's words, "You ain't never gonna be man enough." In Preszler's superb memoir, Little and Often, the improbable happens--the non-craftsman builds a canoe from scratch and makes peace with his demons.
Disowned 14 years earlier, Preszler is stunned when his dad has nice words for him during a rare trip home. Leon dies shortly thereafter, oddly leaving Trent his toolbox. Recalling a fond memory of a time in a fishing boat, Preszler somewhat inadvisably decides to build a strip canoe, following directions from a decades-old paperback he discovers at the lumberyard.
The build begins about as well as expected as Preszler, whose friends think macramé might be more appropriate, rushes in and learns on the fly. But using his father's tools and discovering more about the churchgoing Vietnam veteran and championship rodeo rider helps Preszler understand his life's traumas. Readers learn along with Preszler as he works; he thoughtfully doles out historical details over the course of the boat's construction, as he reveals the family's background. Insightful and humorous, Preszler's memoir is a deep dive to find the father he longed for and the confidence to be his own man. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review