||September 12, 2007
Barnes & Noble.com
Set in the farmlands of mid-America in the late nineteenth century, Fallow's Field tells the story of a man whose work is his only solace as he buries his emotions amidst the growing blades of golden wheat until a beautiful woman changes his life's journey.
After the tragic deaths of his father and uncle, Ned Fallow grows into a silent young man, shut off from emotional ties and struggling to earn a living on a wheat farm in Midland, Kansas. He becomes obsessed with growing the perfect crop in the fertile Kansa soil and pays little attention to the world around him; yet the beautiful, intelligent schoolteacher, Lily Thomason, and the untimely death of one of his workers finally force Ned out of his shell and make him rethink his perspective on the life he's always envisioned.
As darkness fell over the western horizon, gathering in the waning sunlight, a light, cool breeze blew in from the north. It had come too late for Ned, who struggled to light the kerosene lamps. Working into the night, Ned’s movements became slow and deliberate. Then, while raising his scythe, he collapsed, face-first.
Dazed, he smelled the rich, dark soil, which brought back memories of Ketchum and a glimpse of an October day, late in the afternoon, when Ned and his grandfather had tilled the vegetable patch. The hazy, purple sky; the crisp autumnal air; the safety and comfort of William O’Connor’s presence—the touch of his leathery hands; the feel of his unshaven face; the unconquerable twinkle in his eyes. God help him, how Ned had loved that man. “Love heals all wounds, boy … Follow your heart,” were the only words Ned remembered from that day with his granddad. It had been a quicksilver moment of a childhood that felt so close, yet so far.
A young farmer must grow beyond the difficult, tragic childhood that hardened him. Ned Fallow survives the hardscrabble years of his youth during the late 1800s to inherit a chance to make it on his own. Leaving behind the unmerciful Texas plains that claimed the lives of his father, uncle and grandfather, he starts his own wheat farm in the more fruitful lands of Kansas. Setting straight to work, Ned quickly impresses the townsfolk of Midland with his skill and dedication, but also his brusque rudeness. While some, like his neighbor Bill Etheridge, try to gently temper the young man, others find him inexcusably arrogant. He particularly antagonizes Pete Lomax, the town bully, and Shorty Swanson, the shifty general-store assistant with a bit of a drinking problem. He also doesn’t make a terribly pleasant first impression on Lily Thomason, the beautiful new schoolteacher. Ned’s only kindred spirits are the two Mexican laborers he employs and who share his tireless appetite for hard work. As the years pass, Ned gradually begins to open up and accept the fact that a farmer’s life is a hard one and that no one gets by alone. He both benefits from the kindness of others during hard times, and offers his assistance when needed in turn. Lily begins to see him in a new light as well. When he faces a trial after his feud with Lomax results in deadly violence, his future is placed in the hands of his neighbors, and he must hope that enough of them won’t turn their backs on him.
McKay’s debut is a well-written, well-researched testament to those who plowed the fields in the early years of this country. His characters are lively and sharply drawn, but his protagonist’s hardness as an adult might not have seemed as credible if he hadn’t so effectively depicted the tragically cruel environment Ned grows up in. The author lets the story’s fairly predictable resolution unfold naturally rather than pushing for superfluous melodrama.
A well-tilled field.
iUniverse (208 pp.)
September 17, 2007
Kirkus Discoveries, Nielsen Business Media, 770 Broadway, New York, NY 10003 646-654-7277 fax 646-654-4706
Fallow's Field is a captivating story about Ned Fallow, a youngster who lives on a Ketchum, Texas farm. His character is molded by a grandfather who must replace Ned's father and uncle who die during a devastating storm. His grandfather's death and more misfortunes cause Ned to become a dedicated loner. When his mother, an aunt and close cousin move away, Ned strikes out on his own. He arrives in Midland, Kansas where he throws himself into becoming the best wheat farmer in a land of wheat farmers--not an easy task. Dedicated to shielding himself from life's slings and arrows, Ned rebuffs any close relationships. He throws himself into proving to the world that he is the best at doing whatever he undertakes. In spite of his chosen life style, he realizes belatedly that it is impossible for anyone to succeed without accepting help from others during trying situations. A metamorphosis of sorts transforms Ned's character, which results in his finding true friendships, companionships and love.
Dennis McKay, the author, proves himself to be a superb storyteller, which is the primary job of a fiction writer. In doing so, he has done extensive research into all areas about which he writes. I was born and grew to manhood on a farm in Oklahoma. Growing wheat was one of the crops my family planted, nurtured, prayed for, and harvested. McKay tells it like it was. I recommend, Fallow's Field. It is a superb read.
Fredrick W. Boling
Author of Wakan Man and Incident at Crazy Woman Creek.
Want to review or comment on this
Click here to login!
Need a FREE Reader Membership?
Click here for your Membership!