Summary and book reviews of The Farmer's Daughter by Jim Harrison

The Farmer's Daughter

Novellas

By Jim Harrison

The Farmer's Daughter
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  • Hardcover: Dec 2009,
    384 pages.
    Paperback: Sep 2010,
    320 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Elena Spagnolie

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About this Book

Book Summary

Jim Harrison’s fifteen works of fiction have established him as one of the most beloved and popular authors in American fiction. His last novel, The English Major, was a National Indie Bestseller, a New York Times Book Review notable, and a San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year. Harrison’s latest collection of novellas, The Farmer’s Daughter, finds him writing at the height of his powers, and in fresh and audacious new directions.

The three stories in The Farmer’s Daughter are as different as they are unforgettable. Written in the voice of a home-schooled fifteen-year-old girl in rural Montana, the title novella is an uncompromising, beautiful tale of an extraordinary character whose youth intersects with unexpected brutality, and the reserves she must draw on to make herself whole. In another, Harrison’s beloved recurring character Brown Dog, still looking for love, escapes from Canada back to the States on the tour bus of an Indian rock band called Thunderskins. And finally, a retired werewolf, misdiagnosed with a rare blood disorder brought on by the bite of a Mexican hummingbird, attempts to lead a normal life but is nevertheless plagued by hazy, feverish episodes of epic lust, physical appetite, athletic exertions, and outbursts of violence under the full moon.

The Farmer’s Daughter is a memorable portrait of three decidedly unconventional American lives. With wit, poignancy, and an unbounded love for his characters, Jim Harrison has again reminded us why he is one of the most cherished and important authors at work today.

The Farmer's Daughter
Part I
Chapter 1
1986

She was born peculiar, or so she thought. Her parents had put some ice in her soul, not a rare thing, and when things went well the ice seemed to melt a bit, and when things went poorly the ice enlarged. Her name was Sarah Anitra Holcomb.

She was without self-pity never having learned how to administer it. Things were as they were. A certain loneliness was an overwhelming fact of her life. Her family had moved to Montana in 1980 when she was nine years old. They felt like pioneers striking out from Findlay, Ohio, but without the young man called Brother, then eighteen and the son of her father's first marriage, who chose to stay behind but then up and joined the marines, an insult because the marines were the core of her father Frank's unhappiness. Frank had seen no combat in Vietnam but as a graduate of Purdue had been in the Competitive Strategies (all unsuccessful) Office in Saigon. His very best friend Willy, also from Findlay, ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

I hoped for the sensual descriptions of the sweeping American Mid-West, and I wanted the landscape to actively contribute to the telling of the stories. And Harrison not only lives up to those expectations, he exceeds them. Though all three of his novellas are distinct from one another, they are joined by the exploration of isolation, displacement, raw sexuality, human connection... Each novella in The Farmer's Daughter is better than the last.   (Reviewed by Elena Spagnolie).

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Media Reviews
New York Times

[i]f there’s one thing Harrison knows, it’s how to teach his characters to share his sensual hunger and relish their role in his supernaturally charged natural world. Whether his readers can tuck in with similar gusto is a question of taste...

The Seattle Times

By stalking society's hinterlands in his fiction, Harrison reminds us of the universality of human experience. As marginal as his characters appear, he awakes in readers a genuine compassion for them.

Denver Post

Harrison's longtime fans must concede that his recent prose work reads with a certain sameness... All well and good if you are a newcomer to Harrison, but veteran readers can be forgiven for wishing the man would draw from a fresh bag of tricks...Do I recommend The Farmer's Daughter? Absolutely. Have I been there before? Absolutely.

Miami Herald

[Harrison] offers readers such a sense of place that it all seems like home. And characters so vivid and real that The Farmer's Daughter becomes like a chronicle of actual acquaintances, like reading a book describing dear friends.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Harrison (Legends of the Fall) shows he is still at the top of his game with these compressed gems. Taken together, they present another fine accomplishment in a storied career.

Library Journal

Starred Review. Excellent fare for Harrison's devoted followers. New readers with a fondness for Hemingway's Michigan stories or Cormac McCarthy's spare regional novels will also find these tales much to their liking. Highly recommended.

Kirkus Reviews

Elusive, allusive and moving - perhaps the author's best work in this form since Legends of the Fall.

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Beyond the Book

The Wicasa Wakan in Lakota Native Culture
In "Brown Dog Redux," the second novella in Jim Harrison's The Farmer's Daughter, an enigmatic quality surrounds the character of Charles Eats Horses. At Wounded Knee he sits alone in the moonlit cemetery, arms raised to the sky; the next morning he is found unmoving in a trance-like state; and throughout the story his peers carefully avoid eye contact with him. Though little else is given to explain these behaviors, Charles Eats Horses tells Brown Dog that "[The others] think I might be a wicasa wakan..."

As Harrison describes, a wicasa wakan is a "medicine man, often a somewhat frightening person like a brujo in Mexico," and is capable of great powers. In The Anthropological Papers of The...

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