An only daughter’s eloquent lament for her family’s farm, seasoned with dashes of feminism and naturalism.
Funda (American Literature/Utah State Univ.) considers the legacy of being raised during the 1960s in a patriarchal family of Czech immigrants and in a small town in Idaho that expected girls to marry and forsake their agricultural roots. Her debut is not, however, a straightforward narrative of generational change amid hardships; rural life expands here into a canvas for literary as well as personal reflection. Funda ranges over subjects as diverse as seed hybridization, ex-urbanites, early-20th-century Idaho, storytelling, postwar exile and mutable family mythologies. The resounding theme is her search for home. “A weed, by definition, is a plant that isn’t valued where it grows, which, to my mind, always leaves open the possibility—that great dream of the transplanted, the pioneer—of finding a place where you’re allowed to flourish,” she writes in one of several clear, fitting analogies for coming into one’s own. Her understanding of identity was shaped by such writers as Willa Cather, who broadened her perspective on the role of women on farms, and by a later trip to the Czech Republic, where she realized that her agricultural heritage came from her mother and, more poignantly, that she “could have roots in one place and grow in another.” Funda’s mother is the subject of the book's finest chapter, “Wild Oats,” which reveals a remarkable woman—former dissident, cosmopolitan European, stoic transplant to sagebrush country—and meditates with tender restraint on the aftermath of her death.
At times slowed by passages brooding over the landscape, this careful, accretive work is worthy for its testing of loyalty in memory’s kiln.