Essays from Sand and Sky

by Phyllis Barber





“Phyllis Barber wields luminous narrative skills to recall her desert childhood and explore her ‘precarious’ spiritual journey. A latter-day desert-dwelling non-fiction Willa Cather, she roots her loving family stories in vivid landscape. A fine essayist in pursuit of spiritual grounding, she finds God in the ‘succulent, generous, breathtaking . . . frightening, windblown unpredictable desert,’ and yet she knows she’ll always be ‘tangled in Mormon thread.’ Her ‘yen for the Soul’ leads her through a whirl of essential questions. Barber makes a thought-provoking companion as she searches for answers.”
STEPHEN TRIMBLE, author of The Mike File: A Story of Grief and Hope


“Where are you headed, dear one? To a silent retreat? To your roots in the rich dirt? To a faraway place seeking answers? To a drying-up waters? To a reassessment of your faith? Phyllis Barber has been there, done that, and lived to tell the tale and thank goodness. In this book I find a mapping of the days to come, of what it will mean to grow older, perhaps wiser, to surrender to the earth itself. Wherever you are headed, pick it up and take it with you.”
JOANNA BROOKS, author of The Book of Mormon Girl and Mormonism and White Supremacy


“What an extraordinary book! The essays in Phyllis Barber’s The Precarious Walk chronicle her deeply moving and inspiring lifelong quest to discover both the Divine—whether it be called God, Goddess, Yahweh, Allah, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Mohammed, Krishna, or Spirit—and her essential self, which she compares to the core of a matryoshka, a Russian nesting doll that contains a series of smaller and smaller dolls, each one similar yet different in some important way from the others. Her book is itself a kind of matryoshka, each essay revealing a stage in her quest to comprehend the Divine and her self. Barber’s walk may be a precarious one but it’s also an essential one, and I urge you to read her book and join her on her journey.”
DAVID JAUSS, author of Glossolalia: New & Selected Stories


“Phyllis Barber is a masterful evocator of landscape—whether it’s the dry, expansive desert landscape in which she was raised, the deep, expansive religious landscape she has tried to escape, or the ever-shifting sands of literature’s landscape. Each landscape, whether geographical, spiritual, or literary (and sometimes all three), calls to her as if they are burrowed in her bones. I found it remarkable to wander with her on her written quest for answers to all kinds of questions in this collection of essays.”
TANYA MILLS, The Book Bungalow



PHYLLIS BARBER is an award–winning author of nine books, including The Desert Between Us, Raw Edges, and How I Got Cultured. Winner of the AWP Prize for Creative Nonfiction, she has published essays and short stories in North American Review, Crazyhorse, and Kenyon Review. She has been cited as Notable in The Best American Essays and The Best American Travel Writing. In 2005, Barber was inducted into the Nevada Writers' Hall of Fame. Barber has taught at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and the University of Utah's Osher Institute. She lives in Park City, Utah.


From a backwoods church in Arkansas to the disappeared town of St. Thomas buried beneath the waters of Lake Mead, award–winning essayist Phyllis Barber travels roads both internal and external, reflecting upon place and perspective, ambition and loss. Inspired by Flannery O'Connor and David James Duncan, Barber adds a deeply generous and—true to her high–desert roots—down–to–earth voice to the illumination of human experience.

May 2022 | Nonfiction | 978-1-948814-59-1 | 230 pp |$18.95