DIRT UNDER MY NAILS by Marilee Foster
Kirkus Star


An American Farmer and Her Changing Land
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From newcomer Foster, a keen and wholly lovely catalogue of seasons growing spuds in the midst of swells.

Out on the South Fork of Long Island, the remaining farms are less likely to be bounded by stonewalls and hedge rows than by monumental architectural experiments. The Hamptons are schizophrenic, with 65,000-square-foot mansions plunked down on famously fertile soil in a region known for its truck farms as well as its summer homes. Foster’s family has been cultivating this earth for five generations; she has “watched, a little dumbfounded, as our open spaces have given way to the infrastructure of an international resort.” Though the author has done her part to resist the forces of greed, she does not overly dwell on that situation here. Rather, Foster agreeably evokes all that is worthy and special about the land on which she has always lived but still hungers to know better: the farm, the overgrown graveyard, the scattered ponds, the romance of out buildings and barns, the vivacity and annoyance of weeds, the weather. (“So much about Hurricane Floyd made me fear him. Even the name sounds like a pedophile.”) Her account contains elements of the pastoral, but it also has plenty of quick, edgy material: “When contemporary beach houses fall into the sea, I compare it to the bitter divorce that often comes at the end of an exaggerated romance.” The roll of the seasons is a constant in the background: the hundred chores that spring tugs at her to attend, the coming and going of birds (she gives their local names: crow-blackbird, golden-winged woodpecker, and, best of all, the browns), the care and maintenance of 600 acres of vegetables, the languid bliss of October to April.

The tenacity and availability of life, amply admired and admirably evoked.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2002
ISBN: 1-882593-54-5
Page count: 184pp
Publisher: Bridge Works
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2002