With her acclaimed memoir In the Wilderness Kim Barnes brought us to the great forests of Idaho, where geography and isolation shape love and family. Now, in her luminous new novel, she returns to this territory, offering a powerful tale of hope and idealism, faith and madness.
It is 1960 when Thomas Deracotte and his pregnant wife, Helen, abandon a guaranteed future in upper-crust Connecticut and take off for a utopian adventure in the Idaho wilderness. They buy a farm sight unseen and find the buildings collapsed, the fields in ruins. But they have a tent, a river full of fish, and acres overgrown with edible berries and dandelion greens. Helen learns to make coffee over a fire as they set about rebuilding the house. Though Thomas discovers he can’t wield a hammer or an ax, there is a local boy, Manny—a sweet soul of eighteen without a family of his own—who agrees to manage the fields in exchange for room and board. Their optimism and desire carry them through the early days.
But the sudden, frightening birth of Thomas and Helen’s daughter, Elise, changes something deep inside their marriage. And then, in the aftermath of a tragic accident to which only Manny bears witness, suspicion, anger, and regret come to haunt this shattered family. It is a legacy Elise will inherit and struggle with, until she ultimately finds a hope of her own.
In this extraordinary novel, Kim Barnes reminds us of what it means to be young and in love, to what lengths people will go to escape loneliness, and the redemption found in family.
Because she knows the territory so intimately, A Country Called Home is 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.