cover image Far from Home: Life and Loss in Two American Towns

Far from Home: Life and Loss in Two American Towns

Ron Powers. Random House (NY), $22 (317pp) ISBN 978-0-394-57034-1

In a vital and disturbing book, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Powers ( White Town Drowsing ) contrasts the changes in the characters of two towns: Cairo, Ill., which he visited for this study, and Kent, Conn., where he had a home until recently, when he relocated to Vermont. In once-prosperous Cairo, the citizenry, organized by 73-year-old community development specialist Richard Poston, is attempting, not altogether successfully, to reinvigorate itself. Kent has different problems. Farming country since the 1700s, the town has been invaded by developers, whose condo complexes destroy the landscape, and by moneyed newcomers, who cause resentment: Henry Kissinger, for example, cleared his acreage of the blueberry bushes the townsfolk, by tradition, considered theirs for the picking. American towns flourish and die as a matter of course, readers are reminded by a writer who affectingly shows that ``if town life in this country is over, so is an essential culture rooted in obligations and the perception of a common good.'' (June)