by Jane Hamilton
This novel is about a modern-day farm family, from the perspective of Mary Francis Lombard, the daughter of the family. The Lombards run an apple orchard in Wisconsin, and “Francie” (also known as “Frankie” and, inexplicably, “Marlene”) is utterly in love with their life on the farm. She aspires to nothing more than being a farmer herself one day, and taking over the family farm with William, her older brother whom she plans to marry, or course.
But the modern-day farmer is dying out, and small, private farms are an endangered species. Francie has a hard time coping with the changes that technology and commercialism inevitably bring to the Lombard farm, way of life, and most of all their future.
The story spans several years, from the time Francie is about nine to the time she is sixteen or seventeen, and along the way she gets into many scrapes and has many feelings. It feels like Hamilton wanted to create a scrappy young female character, perhaps on the level of Scout Finch – but Francie mostly comes across as whiny and demanding and petulant. It also felt like this was supposed to be some coming of age tale, but there were no great lessons or epiphanies.
(I also object to the gratuitous and predictable “retarded” tossed out from time to time.)
It’s not a bad story, but it falls a little flat and I wouldn’t call it memorable.