This 1960s back-to-the-land story begins as Helen and Thomas Deracotte set up their new home in rural, rugged Idaho, having abandoned their New England upbringing for a simple, but adventurous life. But after the complicated birth of their first child, Helen struggles to adjust. She feels isolated from Thomas, who seems unable to connect with Helen altogether. They increasingly rely on Manny, their live-in hired hand, to keep things going on their ranch. In a desperate and impulsive attempt to regain a sense of freedom and sense of self, Helen’s brief encounter with Manny sends them both into an emotional spin, with tragic consequences for the family.
The opening paragraph of the novel, A Country Called Home, by Kim Barnes, captured me immediately. There was something about it.
I was already familiar with Kim’s work, but there was something visceral about what was on the page. I grew up in the west. I have experienced the expanses, the mountains, the rivers. But I have also seen the small things of the natural world that can embody both beauty and danger.
Coming off the page was a dialogue between people and nature that felt familiar. A point of view I understood. And that was before I knew what the story was about.
Set against such beautiful country, Kim’s story centers around characters who have been orphaned in some way; literally, emotionally, or psychologically. Whatever their past, they wrestle to cope. They try to outrun their past, bury it, face it, or simply move on to create a life of their own, to find home. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
The power of this narrative is the beautiful yet often unforgiving environment, the depth of character, and the timeless desire to create home.
“Filled with exquisitely etched landscapes, the novel brims with the smell of brambles and berries along an Idaho riverbank, the gritty feel of the dust in an abandoned homesteader’s shack, the sounds of grouse and quail in the fields.”The New York Times Book Review
A Kansas City Star Best Book of the Year
A Washington Post Best Book of the Year
An Oregonian Top Ten Northwest Book of the Year
Learn more about Kim Barnes