The Sun Farmer: The Story of a Shocking Accident, a Medical Miracle, and a Family's Life-And-Death Decision
In November 1999, Illinois farmer Ted Fink was transporting a tank of propane when his tractor backfired, igniting an explosion that could be seen and felt for miles. Ted, in the middle of it, suffered burns over most of his body. Wall Street Journal reporter McCarthy spent more than a year meeting with Ted and his wife, Rhoda-even staying on for a season to work the farm with them-to gather the story of their life together and the horrific accident that changed it. Besides a chronicle of Ted's long road to recovery (beginning with 420 days in a Madison, Wis. hospital), an examination of the synthetic skin ($100,000 worth) that saved him, and a look at farm accidents in America (Ted's grandfather died in one), McCarthy rounds out his portrait with telling stories of family life-though a detailed but irrelevant genealogy smacks of filler. McCarthy is at his best detailing the fallout from the subject at hand: wounds that won't heal, mobility problems, money problems and Ted's radically altered visage among them.. Though he obviously gained much from his time with the Finks-including access to Rhoda's diary, excerpts from which are included-McCarthy's approach has a feature-story feel that holds back the extraordinary narrative.