Frederick Heinold’s mother died when he was 9 years old. Because of the loss, he bonded closely with his father, Emmett, resulting in a passion for farming that laid the framework of his life. Though he had always admired his father, he hadn’t realized what a consummate farmer Emmett was until 10 years after his death, when Frederick faces difficult challenges and has few resources to alter the bleakness of his future. He overextends himself purchasing expensive equipment and renting additional acres to farm in hopes of winning back the respect of his wife, Joann, whom he married five years earlier. Joann is a city girl, and though she initially loved Frederick for his common sense, she soon resents the hardships of farm life. She begins to travel daily to Lime City, sometimes staying overnight with her mother and eventually finding a job as a real estate agent. Two men strongly challenge their marriage: Eldon Mathews, a neighbor Joann admires for being a highly successful farmer (whom Frederick remembers as the school bully and who now wants his land), and Miles Richards, a handsome con man who quickly seduces his way into Joann’s bed and then into her savings. Set in rural Iowa, debut author Schinnow’s novel successfully captures the mood of the 1970s directly before the farming crisis, the outcome of which was the consolidation of land and the specialized farming of corn and soybean. Schinnow exposes the recklessness of the new generation of farmers for whom debt is common and the tenet “tried and true” no longer holds value. Though many of Frederick’s neighbors are affected, Frederick becomes lost as he searches to redefine himself. As Schinnow poetically writes: “His arms sculled back and forth like insufficient wings. He was flying over a land that lay far below. If he faltered, he would sink in a languid, spiral (sic) until he touched down like an exquisite ballerina. Would his memories follow? It would be nice not to remember.”
A cautionary tale of broken dreams and lives gone awry.