Many long-time readers may remember Bill Hogan, the San Francisco Chronicle’s book editor. And “Circle Way” is not only the title of Mary Ann Hogan’s memoir, it’s also the name of the street in Mill Valley where the home she loved and grew up in is located.
As successful and highly regarded as Bill Hogan was, he never published a book of his own. “Circle Way” is the author’s attempt to uncover the reasons why her dad didn’t consider himself a real writer. How much of Bill was DNA, or was he living out family culture and expectations?
Even if California is not the state of your birth or childhood, the author makes a strong case for wondering if the “here” of where you are now is only a location lacking the “there” of wherever you came from.
I need to note that “Circle Way” is not a story of parental abuse or an unhappy childhood. It is, however, a spectacular story of an immensely fascinating family, replete with business magnets, others fallen into poverty and even a long-held secret: a black sheep whose time in San Quentin came to be a lynchpin for his success and a window through which the author could see her family more clearly.
Mary Ann’s memoir, slated to be published in February 2022, was decades in the making. Her father kept notebooks, journals, letters, his own artwork, favorite books and just about everything a kid could ask for as clues to a parent’s identity. How many of us have gone through a deceased family member’s memorabilia, trying to figure out what to save and what to toss?
The author was a journalist, poet and teacher. Born in the Bay Area, she married and eventually moved to the East Coast and then Florida before returning to California with her husband and two sons. Eric Newton, beloved husband and stalwart editor, writes both the prologue and last chapters to his wife’s book.
One of my favorite takes (and there are many) from “Circle Way” is the Japanese word kintsugi. It means not only repairing a broken bowl, “instead of hiding the cracks, you light them up with powdered gold. The break becomes a respected part of an object’s story of service, a very nice way to treat a ceramic bowl. And people, too.”
Not a memoir about death or grief, “Circle Way” is about life and living. Wrap a bow around your pre-ordered copy of “Circle Way.” It will be the best holiday present you can give or receive.
Sunny Solomon is a freelance writer and head of the Clayton Book Club. Visit her website at
bookinwithsunny.com for her latest recommendations or just to ‘talk books.’
Sunny Solomon holds an MA in English/Creative Writing, San Francisco State University. She is a book reviewer for “The Clayton Pioneer” and her poetry and other writing has been published in literary journals, one chapbook, In the Company of Hope and the collection, Six Poets Sixty-six Poems. She was the happy manager of Bonanza Books, Clayton, CA and Clayton Books, Clayton, CA. She continues to moderate a thriving book club that survived the closure of the store from which it began. Sunny currently lives next to the Truckee in Reno, NV.