At age thirty, Kyle Boelte finds himself living in San Francisco, where the summer fog blows inland off the ocean and the landscape changes moment to moment. Amidst this ever-changing sea of fog, Boelte struggles to remember his brother Kris, who committed suicide in the family’s Denver home when Boelte was just thirteen.
In this impressive debut, Boelte sets up a dual narrative: one investigates San Francisco’s climate to explain the science behind the omnipresent fog; another explores Boelte’s memory as well as letters, notes, newspaper articles, and other artifacts that tell the story of his brother’s short life and eventual suicide.
Weaving a complex and engaging story from personal, historical and environmental threads, Boelte’s search for meaning takes him to a range of unexpected places: from San Francisco Bay circa 1901, when fog was responsible for routinely sinking steamships, to a cavernous medical library where he studies the grim details of asphyxiation and death by hanging; from the redwood forests where scientists are now learning about fog’s ability to sustain life, to a beat-up cardboard box containing memories of his long-dead brother.
The Beautiful Unseen is as much a meditation on experiencing loss at an early age as it is a study of the impermanence of memory, the science of fog and the history of San Francisco.
There were times, reading The Beautiful Unseen: Variations on Fog and Forgetting, that I was utterly transported, felt surely the fog was pooling outside my own window. Kyle Boelte’s haunting debut put me in mind that other story of natural beauty and a lost brother, Norman Maclean’s A River Runs Through It. I can’t think of higher praise than that.
The Beautiful Unseen is its own weather system: soulful, unpredictable, shadow then light.
Painful, intimate, and exquisitely written, Kyle Boelte’s The Beautiful Unseen confronts one family’s profoundest grief with a searing honesty.
What is this alchemy, by which natural beauty — fog, wind, damp redwoods — can transform grief into wonder and a semblance of peace? This is the question that Kyle Boelte probes with strong, honest sentences and a young man’s clear eyes. Like Annie Dillard, he blends meteorology, memory, and mystery into a gift of grace.
We know how to speak about death. We know how to grieve. Except when it is a suicide — then our culture lacks language, ritual, and understanding. Consider The Beautiful Unseen as an honest and eloquent guide to an uncharted landscape of loss, in which Kyle Boelte has done the brutal and tender mapping of a story that fills the silence, that gives us permission to mourn, and honor, those dead by their own hand.
In subtle, pitch-perfect prose, The Beautiful Unseen weaves a narrative of deep personal loss with an unusual natural history. The pattern that emerges is achingly beautiful and absolutely unforgettable.
A slim book of startling prose, The Beautiful Unseen slips between past and present, inner life and outer, seamlessly and beautifully. It’s that rare, treasured thing: a moving portrait of loss that never settles for easy answers.
Kyle Boelte’s The Beautiful Unseen is a lyrical, deeply personal meditation on fog and memory. Boelte’s attempt to come to terms with the event that shattered his childhood — his beloved older brother’s suicide — and his shifting, fading recollections of his brother, lead him to consider the enigmatic nature of memory itself. At the same time, the San Franciscan becomes an obsessive aficionado of the city’s famous fog, which can completely obliterate a landscape in moments. As he wanders across his city in search of the enveloping whiteness, Boelte’s dual quest illuminates both the external phenomenon of fog and his painful internal landscape — one that he finally makes peace with. The Beautiful Unseen is a delicate, poignant and original work.
[A] haunting new memoir . . . [Boelte] delivers a graceful account of love, loss, and change.
Boelte’s sure-footed prose makes The Beautiful Unseen a lovely journey. And a moving one.
[L]ovely, meditative prose.
With lush, expressive imagery that conjures an uncertain emotional and physical terrain, Boelte conveys the deep, abiding sense of loss such tragedies inflict, yet softly, tenderly communicates the conflicting sensations of confronting memories, both lost and found.
There’s a catharsis within this narrative strand . . . [Boelte] shows that he knows what he’s doing . . . [a] moving memoir.
[O]ne of the most haunting books ever written about the fragility of memory.