ONCE THERE WAS A FARM. . . : A Country Childhood Remembered by Virginia Bell Dabney
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ONCE THERE WAS A FARM. . . : A Country Childhood Remembered

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A deeply affecting memoir of life on a backwoods Virginia farm in the first half of the 20th century, and an astonishing debut by a 71-year-old author. Dabney graduated from high school knowing deep down she was a writer; but having grown up in the shadow of the Depression, she didn't dare ignore her mother's advice to take a business course in college and write in her spare time. So much the pity, as readers have had to wait an extra 50 years to enjoy this author's extraordinarily evocative prose. Realizing in her early 20s that she still knew too little about life to write anything worthwhile, the would-be author tore up all her manuscripts, got married, and spent her prime years giving birth to three children, weathering a divorce, and enduring the ensuing financial catastrophe: in short, she learned more about life than she'd bargained for. Now, blessed with time and a home of her own, the author reflects on her country childhood with all the wisdom, humor, and empathy she's managed to pick up in the intervening years. Exquisitely drawn characters bring her memories to life, including Dabney's mother, who left her husband in Chicago to run a farm and raise three children on her own; her father, a rabid atheist who formed an unlikely late-in-life friendship with a religious farm-boy; Daphne, the favorite oldest daughter, who married for love and died the exhausted wife of a poor farmer at age 31; and the author herself, the baby of the family and so routinely ignored that her mother regularly suggested she run out and see whether the road was still there. Throughout, Dabney imbues her past with a glow as warm and memorable as that of the rose-colored chandelier she so vividly recalls gracing her mother's parlor. A wonderful book in which to lose oneself, and which restores nostalgia's tarnished name.

Pub Date: April 9th, 1990
Publisher: Random House