An Odyssey
Susan Ackerman, Preston H. Kelsey Professorship in Religion, Professor of Women's and Gender Studies, and Professor of Jewish Studies

I was destined to love this book. Daniel Mendelsohn is, like me, a professor; he is, like me, a scholar of the ancient world; he, like me, has been dealing with the challenges of aging parents; and An Odyssey: A Father, a Son and an Epic is the story of how he, like me, is trying to find ways to balance these professional and personal identities. But Dartmouth alumni will love this book too, because Mendelsohn’s account of his balancing act is a quintessential story of the liberal arts and of the love of life-long learning that a liberal-arts education inspires. In his old age, Mendelsohn’s father does what many alumni (including me) would surely love to do — he goes back to college, to sit in on his son’s first-year seminar course on Homer’s Odyssey. Father and son then embark on the same sort of trip many alumni (including me) have taken: an educational cruise that retraces the hero Odysseus’s ten-year voyage home after the end of the Trojan War. With Mendelsohn and his father, then, we are back in the classroom, back learning, and — even though the hardships of old age and the sad work of watching one’s parents fail comes more and more to the fore as the book progresses — we are transported back to the world of our eighteen-year-old-selves, just beginning our Dartmouth careers. That's a great gift.