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A first novel that offers low-key memories of life down on the farm as a dying nonagenarian describes the way it used to be raising sheep and living off the land. Ninety-year-old Irene Leahy accepts that she’s dying, but she’s not quite ready to go—not until she shares her recollections of long-ago life in upstate New York. The specifics of these tales are typically rural, focusing on the hard particulars of a working life spent close to the land. But Irene’s gentle stories of the past don’t pack many punches, and though she’s supposed to be ornery and strong, she seems more a generic feisty old woman than an intrinsically memorable one. Between recollections, Irene deals with Reverend Thorne, a frequent caller, and Esther, the woman who takes care of her. The Reverend, in a well-meaning but entirely irritating way, urges Irene to sell the farm and move to a retirement home—an idea that Esther seconds. Local real- estate agents are equally insistent. But Irene stubbornly resists moving, fearing not only that her independence will be lost but that the farm will be subdivided and turned into a development. The story shuttles between Irene’s current predicament and her vivid memories of the past. An only child whose older brother drowned in childhood, Irene was taught by her father to handle a gun and team of horses, and by her mother to raise the sheep that provided the farm’s income. Her father died when she was 17, and she has spent the rest of her life raising sheep. A single love affair—with the local veterinarian—ended when he was killed in WW II. Eventually, the Reverend comes through with an idea that will preserve the farm, transforming it into a living museum. And so, with that problem resolved, and her tales all told. . . . A heartfelt but less that original celebration of rural life and female independence.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-882593-21-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Bridge Works
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1998