Published in 1990 by the legendary North Point Press, this is a poetic novel of despair, hope, and the redemptive power of work. After losing his hand in an accident, Andy Catlett confronts an agronomist whose surreal vision can see only industrial farming. This vision is powerfully contrasted with that of modest Amish farmers content to live outside the pressures brought by capitalist postindustrial progress, and by working the land to keep “away the three great evils, boredom, vice, and need.”
As Andy’s perspective filters through his anger over his loss and the harsh city of San Francisco surrounding him, he begins to remember: the people and places that wait 2,000 miles away in his Kentucky home, the comfort he knew as a farmer, and his symbiotic relationship to the soil. Andy laments the modern shift away from the love of the land, even as he begins to accept his own changed relationship to the world. Wendell Berry’s continued fascination with the power of memory continues in this treasured novel set in 1976.