When one person’s political passion conflicts with the rest of her family's desires, tensions are inevitable.
Rachel Clayborne, Michael German, and their infant daughter, Deirdre, have been living in Illinois, close to the college where Michael teaches. Rachel has been halfheartedly working on a Ph.D. in environmental science, but, since giving birth, her energy has flagged and she’s begun questioning her commitment to the field. She’s also depressed and angry—doubting that she’s well-suited for the domesticity she’s somehow fallen into. She’s stewing, so when her dad phones and informs her that her grandmother, called Grand, is dying, she and Deirdre sneak off in the middle of the night and drive to the Farm, the Wisconsin home that's been in the Clayborne family for generations. Rachel doesn’t leave a note about their destination—she and the child just vanish while Michael sleeps. Once in Wisconsin, she and Grand easily reconnect, and despite Grand’s frailty and memory lapses, the pair are buoyed by one another. Still, tensions arise. The main issue involves Grand’s plan to leave the Farm to Diane Bishop, her Native American nurse and longtime friend, in essence returning the land to the Ojibwe people who once owned it. After all, Diane argues, the Claybornes acquired the property fraudulently and restoring it is simply making things right. Grand agrees, changes her will, and sets off a battle royal within the Clayborne family. Along the way, Rachel connects with her first love, Joe Bishop, Diane’s son and the caretaker of an area dam, and grapples with issues including marital fidelity, family ties, indigenous rights, and lifestyle preferences.
Taut, beautifully written, and suspenseful, this resonant, feminist drama eschews easy answers. A page-turner of the highest caliber.