"What do you do for a living?" the podiatrist (or the photographer or the woman in the train station) asks, and Joan Connor answers, "I'm a writer," waiting with a cringe for the inevitable rejoinder: "Oh, boy, do I have a story for you!" How such offerings, not stories but small reports from the thick of life, become rich reflections on the nature of waiting and writing, language and love, memory and hope, is the mystery of this award-winning collection of essays. Traveling between the poles of Ohio and Vermont, childhood and motherhood, Connor writes of a peripatetic family whose oddities make the quirks of a Thurber household seem downright subdued; of a thirteen-year-old son as an unlikely companion through the torments of middle-aged dating; of old loves and new; and through it all, of writing as a means of finding the shortest distance between two lines: hope. With language that distills insight from anecdote and transforms the stuff of middling life into telling metaphor, The World Before Mirrors, winner of the River Teeth Literary Nonfiction Prize, lifts the telling of a life's stories into the realm of flight.