Harvest: An Adventure into the Heart of America’s Family Farms

Richard Horan. Harper Perennial, $14.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-209031-7
Horan (Seeds) offers an engaging, albeit didactic look at agriculture in America through the microcosm of harvest season at several small family farms. While his eye for the bucolic frequently recalls a nostalgic past and disdains the present, Horan un-self-consciously peppers his sharp observations with jarring platitudes that remove the reader from the task at hand. His paternalistic liberalism paints immigrant field workers as “ignorant, poor, yet so ripe with hope and determination and humility” and blinds him to the dangerous similarity between his plan for prisoner rehabilitation and this country’s agricultural, slave-holding past. This same lack of self-awareness crescendos in the harvest of wild rice, when Horan goes so far as to tell the tale in a Disneyesque caricature of native storytelling—a confusing choice. Poor narrative strategies undermine Horan’s otherwise excellent observations of the vigor of farm work and the characters he meets as he journeys from farm to farm, learning what is left of America’s small agricultural enterprises and the difficulties they face. The harvest of wheat, green beans, blueberries, tomatoes, red raspberries, wild rice, cranberries, potatoes, and walnuts will carry the reader into daydreams of hearty, satisfying work, even as the guide sometimes proves problematic. Agent: Helen Zimmerman, Helen Zimmerman Agency. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/30/2012
Release date: 09/01/2012
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