Finding Dignity In Pounding Nails

The Cliff Walk: A Memoir of a Job Lost and a Life Found

By Don J. Snyder

Little, Brown & Co.

265 pp., $23.95

'Man, not another baby boomer out of work ..." rags a student after Don Snyder loses his cushy professorship at Colgate University.

This once-was English professor tells his own story of midlife crisis in the early 1990s when his upwardly mobile career abruptly ends and his inner life stalls, steers downward, and spirals in self-centered circles toward the hard facts.

Anyone who might lose a job to downsizing will find "The Cliff Walk: A Memoir of a Job Lost and a Life Found" riveting. As the savings run out and the months of waiting turn into years, the distance widens between Snyder's self-image and what he's seeing in the mirror. His feeling of entitlement to the special life of an intellectual gives way for the mundane workworld.

When his family of six hits rock bottom financially, he finally gets an unlikely job. It is as a bungling unskilled construction worker elbowing with a crew of good guys under a forgiving foreman, that he finds grace. As the house they are working on is built, he constructs his inner life anew from the ground up. And enough of his ego is restored to enable him to write a book about it later. (This is Snyder's fourth book.)

A happy ending awaits, after we endure, along with the author, an interminably long period of denial and anger. One flaw should be noted though - as a wife and mother, I grew impatient with him and thought I'd like to know a little more about his saintly wife.

The subtleties of each phase of his awakening are just that - subtle. But this makes his tale convincing.

* Duanne Veidelis is a homemaker and freelance writer.

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