Merry Wanderer of the Night + TIME

Book Review: Memory of Trees

I picked up Memory of Trees for no other reason than the subtitle A Daughter's Story of a Family Farm. I love reading about farms and agriculture, but it's rare that I see a story from the point of view of a daughter. I was especially intrigued because that is what I mostly write about-- Iowa agriculture from a daughter's point of view. Gayla Marty writes about her family's Minnesota farm during the sixties and seventies. She watches as the farms around her become more industrial and watches her own family's farm come to an end. She punctuates the end of each section with a little vignette on a tree from her life. The book is nonfiction, but its really poetry.

"North, east, south, west. North is the pasture behind the barn and the lane along the fence that leads the cows to the woods. East are the railroad tracks and highway. South is town, three miles away. You can see the white towers of the mill across the swamp and fields. West is Gramma's house, which is also Uncle and Auntie's; just beyond it is the woodshed, then the orchard, then the creek flowing under the road into the swamp. In springtime the creek is swollen, the swamp turns into a lake a quarter mile wide" (4).

I love stories about the Midwest but I never see them and I certainly never see them done well. Marty captures the essence of rural Midwest life so well it almost brought me to tears. I've always wanted a book that showed me my life and this was it. The one book that really captured it all for me. I had an extremely intense connection with this book because Marty was able to get the time and place of her story exactly right. By the end of the book I felt like I grew up with her.

Her exploration of place goes beyond the Midwest to farms in Switzerland and Tanzania where she traveled late in high school and early in college. She sees everything through the eyes of a farmer's daughter, and because I shared that bond with her I felt like I saw these places in the most realistic way.

There were a few issues. I thought the book was a little too slow in parts, although overall I thought the pacing was right on and the slowness fit well with the location. Most of my other problems were with Marty's decisions, which have nothing to do with the writing and really nothing to do with her either. It was more about me projecting my own desires onto her life.

This is a book I seem to be recommending to everyone lately even though I have a feeling not everyone will love it. If you're a farmer's daughter though, and you love that about yourself, I really think this is a must read.

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Book Review: Memory of Trees + TIME