The Milkweed Ladies

Louise McNeill, Author
Louise McNeill, Author University of Pittsburgh Press $29.95 (122p) ISBN 978-0-8229-3587-2
Reviewed on: 09/01/1988
Release date: 09/01/1988
In this graceful, poignant memoir, poet McNeill writes of the West Virginia land that has been in her family for nine generations. With a meandering, appealing style, she recounts the history of the Swago Farm, from Grandpa Tom, who took the area from the Indians in 1769, down to her father, G. D., sailor, lawyer, teacher and farmer. Short, flowing chapters chronicle a rustic childhood with hardworking Mama, whose Japanese kimono is her one luxury, crotchety Granny Fanny, who roams the hills gathering herbs, and Aunt Malindy, the beloved, idle boarder. Chores mark the passing of seasons: maple-sugaring in winter, plowing and planting in spring, haying and blackberry picking in summer and Apple Butter Makin' Day in fall. The farm is so safely isolated that the family does not learn of World War I until a telephone is installed in 1916. But soon, with the railroads and the lumber industry, the world encroaches. McNeill leaves for college, begins publishing poetry, gets married. It seems the farm will always remain, in her mind, untouched by timeuntil August 7, 1945, while sitting in a New York hotel and reading in the newspaper about Hiroshima, she realizes that ``Never again would I be able to say with such infinite certainty that the earth would always green in the springtime, and the purple hepaticas come to bloom on my woodland rock.'' (September)
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