NORTHERN BORDERS by Howard Frank Mosher

NORTHERN BORDERS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Mosher (A Stranger in the Kingdom, 1989, etc.) is on familiar territory in his nostalgic fifth novel of life in northern Vermont's Kingdom County, as told by a man remembering his boyhood on the farm of his beloved grandparents. In 1948 six-year-old Austen Kittredge III leaves his widowed father to live with his paternal grandparents on their farm in the township of Lost Nation. They are fiercely independent characters who maintain an uneasy truce in their 40-year marriage: When the domestic strife becomes too much, Grandmother Abiah escapes to her sitting-room filled with treasured Egyptian artifacts, while Grandfather Austen retreats to his hunting lodge up in the mountains. Young Austen loves them both, but it is his cantankerous, aloof grandfather who comes to dominate his world, and their relationship is at the center of the book. The adult Austen III narrates the dramas and vicissitudes of rural life as set pieces; each chapter stands strongly on its own, and taken together they form a mosaic of farm life. A particularly moving story tells of gun-shy Grandmother Abiah shooting a snow owl that has been eating her hens; an amusing one depicts Uncle Rob Roy unwisely making a bet with a professional sharpshooter. Escapades at the county fair, doings at the annual family reunion and Shakespeare performance, conflicts at the one-room schoolhouse are all recounted lovingly. After Abiah's death Austen and his grandfather take a life-altering trip to the wilds of Canada; on a lonely mountaintop Austen learns his reticent grandfather's 50-year-old secret. A gentle, meandering story, rich in the details of country life without being unduly sentimental, despite the occasionally overdone rural eccentricities.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Doubleday