The Book

Lost Without the River, A Memoir

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Lost Without the River is an elegantly wrought memoir of resilience, courage, and reinvention. A portrait of nature at its most beautiful and demanding, it is the story of a girl whose family struggled against Depression-era hardship and personal tragedy to carve out a small farm in rural South Dakota. The youngest of seven, Barbara wrestles against the expectations of her family, the strictures of the church, and the limits of a time dominated by men. Eager for adventure, she leaves the farm—first for the Peace Corps and ultimately for the alien geography of Manhattan’s Upper East Side—but she never truly escapes. Lost Without the River demonstrates the emotional power that even the smallest place can exert, and the gravitational pull that calls a person back home.

Praise for the Book

 "With its map of the family farm, its photograph of the Whetstone river, and its portrait gallery, Scoblic's memoir is both a micro-history of her tiny corner of South Dakota and an oral-history-toned chronicle of the Hoffbeck family from the 1920s onward....Scoblic's picturesque language...keeps sentimentalism at bay..."

The New York Times

“Barbara Scoblic's Lost Without the River is a virtual literary symphony fusing memoir, history, and geography. Her descriptions of South Dakota's farms, rivers, and glacial lakes are as vivid as her portraits of three generations of her family and their relationships. She may have achieved a modern classic—with a touch of the poet!”

— Sidney Offit, author of Memoir of the Bookie's Son 

 "Enter Barbara Scoblic's world where opera reigns in the kitchen on Saturday afternoons, where the winter is long and loss is real. Her writing beautifully teases up the questions of life, love, and how much of a hold our past really has on us."

— Marion Roach Smith, author of The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text for Writing & Life

“Compelling and thought-provoking, Lost Without the River is a highly polished memoir with enormous heart. In the candid pages, author Barbara Hoffbeck Scoblic shares a deft account of Depression-era farm life. Delivered in a warm style, her engrossing story of familial bonds—that sometimes chafe—is compelling and well-paced. And though it's desperately sad at times, the overriding theme is one of hope and resiliency."

—Laurie Buchanan, PhD, author of Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth, and The Business of Being: Soul Purpose In and Out of the Workplace

“Scoblic has captured something universal here. There is a quietude to this memoir that speaks to the Northern Plains, but the themes exist everywhere… A longtime resident of New York City, Scoblic mines the theme of the power of place, specifically the river that traced through their farm.”

—Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“This volume of reminiscences charts not just the stories of [Scoblic’s] youth, but also the ways those things have shaped and weighed on her throughout her adulthood. The author’s prose is lyrical and highly observant…”

—Kirkus Reviews

"There are some writers who can sing the song of even a small and remote place and through some magic transform it into a siren call. Barbara Scoblic is one of those writers!"

— Lewis Frumkes, director of The Writing Center at Hunter College 

“Her large farming family was always in flux, hardworking and bone weary, yet there is a quiet intimacy conveyed in the lean prose of Barbara Scoblic’s memoir, where simple gestures, like ironing blouses before a sister leaves for college, carry unspoken love and yearning.”

— Elizabeth Garber, author of Implosion: A Memoir of an Architect's Daughter