Brox delicately interweaves the voices of her late father, Henry David Thoreau and immigrant mill workers in the early 20th century in this elegant meditation on life in the Merrimack Valley in Massachussets. After working in textile mills where ""cloth dust [fell] constant as high mountain flurries,"" Brox's Lebanese-born grandparents bought a farm where her father planted apple orchards and to which she returned after his death in 1995. In a series of reflections using family memories as points of departure, she lyrically evokes the time before the Pawtucket Indians died out from European diseases and the days when Thoreau sailed on the Merrimack River, as well as the 1912 Strike for Bread and Roses, when local militias were called in to contain mill workers striking over 16 cents or so in weekly wages (two loaves of bread). Brox's care with historical detail means women are not omitted from her accounts. She writes sensitively of the girls who ""waited for marriage"" in the mills, making cloth destined to become ""worn and bleached and frayed by time and effort until it was patched and threadbare, and at last cut up for quilts or rags or a child's toy, after which it all but disappeared."" She wistfully acknowledges that American farms like her family's are now referred to as ""agro-entertainment,"" while former mill buildings house computer industries and synthetic textile trades. This is a clear-eyed and cogent history of farming, immigrant life and one American family written in prose that sparkles like the Merrimack River once did. (Mar.) FYI: Brox was awarded the 1996 L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award and a 1994 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship.
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999 Release date: 03/01/1999 Genre: Nonfiction