Why did my mother die on International Star Wars Day?

When she isn’t eavesdropping on family gossip or gazing at taxidermy squirrels in smoky dives, Courtney Kersten charts the uncertainty of her Midwestern homeland by looking to the stars and planets. As a teen she had plunged deep into the worlds of signs, symbols, and prophecy. But now, as her mother—her traveling companion into these spheres—lies dying, Kersten must learn to navigate without the person who always lit the way. Their last journey together, to swim in a Wisconsin lake, is a bittersweet, darkly comic, poignant climax that is the mark of a transformative memoir.


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Alternately comic and poignant, Kersten’s book is a coming-of-age story about faith and a searching meditation on the mother-daughter bond. . . . A refreshingly quirky memoir of soul-searching and family.”  —Kirkus

“What would we do differently if we knew where we were going? Crackling with detail, Daughter in Retrograde . . . finds miracles in the mundane and illuminates the deeper truths of love . . . a finely written memoir that captures the sass and splendor of two unforgettable women.”    —Foreword Reviews

“Set against the backdrop of casserole-heavy Wisconsin, Kersten’s memoir is pithy and hopeful; she writes with great wonder about human existence and the mysteries of life after death. This book is perfect for readers hunting for tales of fierce mother-daughter love, and for horoscope followers one and all.”   — Courtney Eathorne, Booklist

“Daughter in Retrograde is incredibly witty and poignant . . . Kersten masterfully articulates emotions and experiences readers will find sympathetic. She is one of the few writers who can truly capture the feeling of being haunted by grief . . . emotionally haunting and darkly funny . . . On this emotionally-compelling odyssey, she emboldens readers to embrace mystery and learn to let go.”   —Thaïs Miller, Museum of Americana

“A fierce and funny meditation on family and loss that surprises the reader again and again, full of beautiful sassiness and skepticism even as it is so open to the numinous possibilities of what is unseen.”    —Tim Miller, author of Body Blows

“Heartbreaking in its honesty, lovely in its artistry, succoring in its strength. A stunning memoir.”   —Mary Clearman Blew, author of This Is Not the Ivy League

“Leaving the adventures of her young woman’s life to return home to her mother’s deathbed, Kersten must face a more brutal coming-of-age separation. Brave, whimsical, and poignant, chock-full of vivid images and searing moments of insight.”   —Kim Barnes, author of In the Kingdom of Men

“A fast-paced, funny, heartbreaking memoir about a Midwestern mother-daughter Thelma and Louise, hard-partying, wise-cracking, and brave, a tragic-comic meditation on love, loss and what we see in the stars.”    —Micah Perks, author of What Becomes Us