Kirkus Reviews QR Code



Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1986
Publisher: Ohio State Univ. Press

. . .and what abideth in American popular literature is the pioneer-farmer saga in which births, deaths, and tempests, both on the wind and in the passions, broadcast the farmer's cycle of furrow and harvest, toil and reward. This roughly-three-decade story, beginning with the marriage of Thomas and Kate Linthorne in 1866, is a sun-warmed example of the genre and has a distinction shared with Helen Hooven Santmyer's "". . .And Ladies of the Club""--a word-of-mouth knowledge of mind-sets and mores in 19th-century rural Ohio. Dell, now in his 80s, wrote this novel in 1938. Tom Linthorne and wife Kate (who would ""serve him. . .at the churn, in the furrows, before the fire, with needle, skillet, hoe and loom"") begin their wedded life on virgin land near the Ohio hills. Relentless toil pays off as the farm prospers and as Tom becomes a respected member of the mainly German. descended new community of struggling farmers. There'll be firm friendships, uneasy alliances and one dangerous enemy, who's eventually fought to the near-death and popped over a cliff. Four children will be born--two will become strangers, and one will die violently by Tom's own hand. There will be a season of forbidden passion and an aftermath which will drive the Linthornes from their established niche in the community. All this is embroidered with sessions of homely kitchen and neighbor talk--from state-of-the-crop to ghost-hex tales and haymow philosophy. In the midst of a full life, Tom and Kate will take in Ohio's centennial celebration in Columbus, in which a dusty encampment of 9,000 veterans howl for their ""Cump"" Sherman amid crowds, bands, melees and the G.A.R. greeting: ""Soldier, will you work?"" (Required answer: ""I'd lose my shirt first."") Dell whomps up the jubilee spirit. A neatly contourad farmer's saga, with broad-brush characters and events elevated out of the sweaty ordinary by the richly reconstructed period and place. Should home in easily to the Santmyer readership.