THE FARMER'S SON by John Connell
Kirkus Star


Calving Season on a Family Farm
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A writer returns home to work at his family’s farm in rural Ireland and records day-to-day struggles and triumphs throughout his first season.

In this thoughtfully observed and poignant debut memoir, Connell paints a remarkably authentic portrait of farm life in all its harshness and beauty. His story begins in January as he is about to deliver his first calf on his own. He describes the long, painstakingly intense procedure before he successfully delivered the calf, followed by the equally difficult task of helping the newborn to feed. This experience sets the tone for the engrossing narrative that follows, as Connell recounts the many challenging moments he faced over the next several months. These included the births and deaths of various livestock, endless feeding and cleaning, and protecting the animals from varied and unpredictable forces of nature. “The work is so relentless that I have forgotten I have lived other lives or that other lives exist,” writes Connell. “There is only the yard and cows and the mountain of chores before me.” The author also shares his internal struggle with his identity and family, in particular the difficult ties with his father, who has been mentor and guide and occasionally his harshest critic. Connell returned to the farm following a 10-year absence working as a journalist and film producer and living abroad, all the while preserving a longing for the farm life he left behind and struggling through periods of depression. Though the author vividly depicts the many hardships and grueling labor involved in running a farm, he maintains an open reverence for the intrinsic value of these efforts and a deep compassion for the animals and environment. “Farming,” he writes, “is a walk with survival, with death over our shoulder, sickness to our left, the spirit to our right and the joy of new life in front.”

A deeply felt, unforgettable story that will linger in readers’ imaginations.

Pub Date: May 7th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-328-57799-3
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 2019


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