by Suzanne Daub
This Father’s Day, Sunday, June 18, author Luke Russert will discuss his newly published memoir Look for Me There: Grieving My Father, Finding Myself at 12 noon in the Great Hall of the Nantucket Atheneum. It’s a book for and about fathers and sons, grief and healing, reflection and discovery, and it explores Russert’s travels— physical and emotional—during the years following the death of his father, Tim Russert.
Luke describes his book as “a travel memoir about self-discovery,” and his writing brings readers along on a three-year journey he took to 67 countries across six continents. His memoir is at times devastating, thoughtful, exhausting, hopeful, desperate, and filled with both loss and wonder. It is Russert’s openness and vulnerability that draws readers in and helps them identify his journey with the ones they have taken.
The positive reception Look for Me There has received speaks to Luke’s success in helping readers “feel a little less lost and appreciate that no one has all the answers.” As he said to us in a recent interview, “we are all works in progress… it’s okay to have doubts, to feel unfulfilled, to acknowledge your struggles… you are not alone. Grieving is intensely private, but there is no set path…I’m floored by the number of folks in their 70s who have read the book and written to me saying that reading my book has helped them understand.”
Early in his memoir, Luke writes: “I don’t know what I’m looking for and don’t know how it will appear, but I’m convinced it will show itself through travel. It has to.” But it seems that it was not until he stopped running and returned home that he could face his grief.
Luke worked on Look for Me There for about four years: “It was an organic process. I had a difficult time in 2018, and I decided to review my travel journals…[ in so doing] I realized I was running away from something—processing the grief of my father’s death—and looking for something…finding myself apart from my parents,” Russert explained.
“For a long time I was defined by being in my father’s shadow. This book gave me the opportunity to explain me… it’s positioned me in a place of more clarity, a road to peace.”
He chose the book title from an incident he remembered from his childhood. When young Luke was with his father at a baseball game, they were briefly caught in the shuffle of a crowd. His father took his hand and told him “Buddy, if we’re ever separated, just look for me there…but we won’t ever be separated.”
After losing someone close, many think of just one more thing they wish they told that person or one more question they wished they could ask. “I would ask him how was he able to give so much of his honest time to me. When I worked at NBC and experienced what his schedule was like, I cannot fathom how he could spend such honest time with me… maintain such a high standard at work and a high standard with me. When he was with me he really understood me as a person.” I’d ask him ‘How did you fit it all in?’
“Someone asked me did I find closure: I think there is no closure…you find peace or you realize that you’ll never accept it.”
A long-time summer visitor to Nantucket, Luke is excited to be a presenting author at the Nantucket Book Festival, “I’m excited to get back to the island.”
When asked if he’s planning a second book, he replied “there’s another book in what I deleted from this one. I worked with a trusted editor who saved me from my worst impulses…I took my initial draft of 300,000 words down to 80,000 words…I like storytelling… maybe another book or a documentary or a podcast. I want to stay in the storytelling space a little longer.”
Luke Russert’s conversation with Rob Cocuzzo in the Great Hall of the Nantucket Atheneum at 1 India Street is free to attend this Sunday at 12 noon, but with limited space, it is best to arrive early for the event.