BookBrowse Reviews The Farmer's Daughter by Jim Harrison

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Farmer's Daughter

Novellas

by Jim Harrison

The Farmer's Daughter by Jim Harrison X
The Farmer's Daughter by Jim Harrison
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Dec 2009, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2010, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Elena Spagnolie

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A collection of three novellas from the author of The English Major and Legends of the Fall

Before reading The Farmer's Daughter, my familiarity with Jim Harrison's work was limited to having seen the popular film version of his novella, Legends of the Fall. (And, I have to admit, as a heartthrob-infatuated teenager, I watched it an embarrassing number of times.) Whether or not the film accurately portrayed Harrison's written work, it planted in me a seed of stylistic expectation. 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. In The Farmer's Daughter, 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 and, of course, by the inclusion of Patsy Cline's "The Last Word in Lonesome is Me."

In the great expanses of Montana, Harrison transports readers to a simpler but tougher place in "The Farmer's Daughter" and allows all of his characters to explore their limits, their curious sexualities, and their courage in spaces when no one else is looking, which at times adds an unsettling quality to his stories. One of my favorite elements of Harrison's writing is his ability to reveal the subtleties of a place - the landscape, cultural attitudes and atmosphere - through little details and show how they imperceptibly mix with the memories of an individual, further shaping their character. This plays out beautifully in the paradox of Sarah's penchant for fine literature and classical piano, alongside her ability to "[blow an antelope] out of his shoes" with a .30-06. Though admittedly, there are a few instances where Sarah's self-reflective thoughts feel too easily achieved and a bit unrealistic for her character, Harrison's exploration of isolation, loss and growth rings true to life.

In "Brown Dog Redux," Brown Dog, an Ojibwe Native American smuggles his stepdaughter Berry into Canada to avoid being sent to a state sanctioned school for children with disabilities. That sets them into motion, and throughout the story they move from place to place with such frequency that I found it difficult to remember where they were at any given time. That feeling of transience certainly added to my experience of the story.

One of the most enjoyable elements in "Brown Dog Redux" is Brown Dog himself. This character is rich throughout, all due to Harrison's vivid and unabashed language. Certainly, Brown Dog is a sexual hound, an alcoholic and a misfit at large. However, he is also a caring father that, despite his appetites, has the capacity to love deeply as is seen in his relationships with Berry, Gretchen (despite her inability to feel emotions) and the land where he grew up. The deep aches of homesickness he feels are gorgeously written and they brought me all too close to my own feelings of missing the places of my childhood.

In "The Games of Night" Harrison writes a riveting werewolf story without the mystery or darkness of traditional Gothic horrors. Akin to the magical realism of W.P. Kinsella, Harrison's character (presented in the first person) is afflicted with a blood disease brought on by an animal bite. The consequent fits he suffers throughout his life, while certainly dangerous to those around him, bring him closer to feeling alive and a part of nature. He philosophizes about the inability of humans to fully comprehend the experience of other animals and reaffirms the mystery inherent in each species, including ourselves. Each novella in The Farmer's Daughter is better than the last and "The Games of Night" re-opens the possibility of true love after it has taken a lifetime of isolation and longing to figure out.

Reviewed by Elena Spagnolie

This review was originally published in February 2010, and has been updated for the September 2010 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Little Fires Everywhere
    Little Fires Everywhere
    by Celeste Ng
    Voted 2017 Best Fiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    Small towns, big drama. Acclaimed author ...
  • Book Jacket: La Belle Sauvage
    La Belle Sauvage
    by Philip Pullman
    Voted 2017 Best Young Adult Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect ...
  • Book Jacket: Killers of the Flower Moon
    Killers of the Flower Moon
    by David Grann
    Voted 2017 Best Nonfiction by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    The long, sorrowful list of injustices done ...
  • Book Jacket: The Dry
    The Dry
    by Jane Harper
    Voted 2017 Best Debut Novel by BookBrowse's Subscribers

    After receiving a letter from his childhood...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers

At once a love story, a history lesson and a beautifully written tale of forgiveness.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Strangers in Budapest
    by Jessica Keener

    Strong characters and a riveting plot combine in this psychological thriller set in Budapest.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Autumn

Autumn by Ali Smith

One of the New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year, and a Man Booker Prize Finalist

Enter

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay: $400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.