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Catalog Archive / Spring 2024

Year of Plenty
A Family's Season of Grief

“Hollars helps show us how it’s possible to stay present, how to notice, even—or especially—when we’re in the thick of it. I fell in love with this whole beautiful family—and then I took some of that cracked-open-heart tenderness back to my own dear ones.”
—Jill Christman, author of If This Were Fiction: A Love Story in Essays

Can we ever fully understand the experiences of others? Can we ever even know ourselves?

In November 2020, B.J. Hollars answered a call from his father-in-law while teaching. “When will you be home?” Steve asked. “I have news.” 

So began the Hollars family’s year of plenty—a cancer diagnosis on top of the ongoing COVID pandemic, then feelings of falling short as parents, partners, and people. While Hollars traces his family’s daily devastations alongside his father-in-law’s decline, he recounts the small mercies along the way: birthdays, campfires, fishing trips, kayaking, and fireflies. As he, his wife, Meredith, and their three young children grapple with how best to say goodbye to the person they love, they are forced to reassess their own lives. How can we make the most of our time, they wonder, when time feels so short?

Written in vignettes and accompanied by photographs and family interviews, Year of Plenty provides a poignant and unflinching account of how death separates us not only from the people we love but from places and memories too. Hollars explores how death’s all-consuming weight has the potential to fracture—rather than strengthen—even those relationships we think we know the best. Ultimately, he cracks wide personal moments from his own life and allows the world to peer in.


Year of Plenty Book Trailer:


BJ Hollars. Photo credit, Brian Hollars. B.J. Hollars is the author or editor of more than a dozen books. The founder and executive director of the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild, he is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire.




“An exquisite account. Interspersed by gorgeous, haunting photographs, the book documents the everyday delightful minutiae of Hollars’s three young children and everyone’s search for memory and meaning in the face of death. One of the most tender, big-hearted accounts of grief and love I’ve ever read, Year of Plenty will joyfully, tearfully remind every reader of life’s bounty.”
—Tessa Fontaine, author of The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts



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Table of Contents

I. Before

November 4, 2020

November 24, 2020

December 17, 2020

December 24, 2020

December 25, 2020

December 25, 2020 (continued)

Interview #1: Winter 2022

January 27, 2021

February 13, 2021

Bear Country: January–February 2015

February 20, 2021

March 19–22, 2021

March 23, 2021

April 16, 2021

April 18, 2021

Punch Line: March 2014

May 1, 2021

May 18, 2021

Interview #2: Winter 2022

May 29, 2021

May 29, 2021 (continued)

Good Dog: March 2020

May 30, 2021

June 1, 2021

June 2, 2021

June 5, 2021

June 5, 2021 (continued)

June 5, 2021 (continued)

Interview #3: Winter 2022

June 7, 2021

June 8, 2021

II. During

June 12, 2021

Interview #4: Winter 2022

June 12, 2021 (continued)

Safely Ashore: June 2004

June 16, 2021

June 16, 2021 (continued)

June 17, 2021

June 17, 2021 (continued)

June 18, 2021

Interview #5: Winter 2022

June 18, 2021 (continued)

June 19, 2021

June 19, 2021 (continued)

June 19, 2021 (continued)

In the Adobe Hotel in Santa Fe: January 3, 2017

June 19, 2021 (continued)

June 20, 2021

Final Cancer Treatment Preceded by a Surprise: June 21, 2021

Steve Ball

June 23, 2021

Interview #6: Winter 2022

June 24, 2021

June 25, 2021

June 26, 2021

June 28, 2021

June 28, 2021 (continued)

Interview #7: Winter 2022

June 28, 2021 (continued)

June 28, 2021 (continued)

June 28, 2021 (continued)

Interview #8: Winter 2022

June 29, 2021

June 29, 2021 (continued)

June 29, 2021 (continued)

III. After

August 8, 2021

August 10, 2021

The Wild Horses of Tybee Island: February 1, 2018

August 10, 2021 (continued)

August 16, 2021

August 20, 2021

August 21, 2021

August 21, 2021 (continued)

September 10, 2021

September 26, 2021

Interview #9: Winter 2022

September 28, 2021

November 24, 2021

November 25, 2021

December 26, 2021

December 28, 2021

What Death Is: 2023

December 29, 2021

March 13, 2022

August 2022

Interview #10: Winter 2022




Of Related Interest

Farm Girl: A red-headed woodpecker perches on a lichen-covered branch on the lower left. A red barn in the background peeks over the hill behind long green and gold grass. and long grass.

Farm Girl
A Midwestern Memoir
Beuna Coburn Carlson

The Green Hour: Cover of a painting of various native plants and flowers. The title is in white text that weaves in and out of the plants.

The Green Hour
A Natural History of Home
Alison Townsend

Year of Plenty: cover with a blurry black and white photo of two children playing in a sprinkler, framed in an off-white box containing red title text.

Larger images

May 2024
272 pp. 5.5 x 8.5
42 b/w photos

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Paper $24.95
ISBN 9780299347444
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