THE HILLS: More Tales from the Blue Stacks by Robert Bernen

THE HILLS: More Tales from the Blue Stacks

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Following Tales from the Blue Stacks (1978): another group of sketches about life in an isolated section of Ireland--with thatched stone houses, sheep, cattle, dogs, small farms. . . and people who find strength while living in harmony with the earth and its rugged demands. There's McPhee-like scrutiny of the difficult ""art"" of scything, ""a vast and complex mystery of interlocking parts. . . an extension of strength, an extension of mind."" (But the philosophical keystone of successful scything seems to lie in recognizing our own insane despoiling of the earth.) ""Brock"" is a tribute to a dead sheep dog whose feats have become legend--as well as the perennial aching memory of an old man. In ""The Rush,"" that dominating weed is both a tyrant and an asset: an object lesson in the farm peoples' workable practice of letting nature take care of unwanted abundance. The sad little odyssey of a maverick sheep, the ""Extra Wether,"" counterpoints the lives within two houses: one a burgeoning young family; the other an aging brother and sister doomed to solitary lives. (Like the wether, ""Some were for life, some not."") A priest from Donegal discovers, as he braves the wild paths to give last rites, that ""the hills have their own time""; a lonely housewife can never be sure ""what action would be needed to save a lamb, a child, a husband's affections."" And the concluding ""Two Lives"" tells of a special farewell night before the narrator returns to the US, as his companion, an old farmer, relives some good days epitomizing the richness and secrets of the old ways soon to disappear. In his cosmic searches Bernen may be somewhat too persistent in affixing moral tags--but his exactitude and integrity in setting down the changing rural scene is often acute, almost always convincing.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1983
Publisher: Scribners