Joshua Senter has taken a snippet of small town America and its rural communities and written a novel from the point of view of one of its citizens; it highlights the tough life that these people have. Theirs is a day-to-day struggle and one that does not seem to have a resolution that is positive.
Our narrator is Calem Honeycutt, the son of farmers and a farmer himself, helping out on the dairy farm alongside his “Pop”. Calem is a young man and hard-working with a strong sense of duty but he increasingly feels that this counts for nothing as his diligence brings him barely enough money to keep a roof above his head.
The book centres on a day in Calem’s life and is divided into sections decreed by the time of day, all related in chronological order. We learn about the structure of Calem’s day, from the early milking of the cows to some “gigging” or fishing that he does with his friend, Miles towards the end of the book. We learn about relationships past and present; he describes instances from his childhood involving family and girlfriends as well as where those people are now and their importance (or not) to him.
Calem is a fluid narrator with strong opinions. He is no “ignorant hick”, something which attention is drawn to throughout the narrative, subverting the stereotype. He is a philosopher, ruminating over the world that he finds himself living in, which seems to want to shove him out. He wants to continue to farm, getting satisfaction from what he does but knowing that it will not and cannot provide for him. Senter uses Calem as a mouthpiece with which to spout the views that must be shared by a lot of small town Americans who feel that they are overlooked in favour of the city inhabitants, generating money and commerce.
The stresses of Calem’s existence mean that this is a relatively tense book but it is also one with strong evocation of character.
Mention is made of politicians in Washington and their possible misguided governance. For anyone wanting to get an idea of how farmers must feel in this day and age and not just in North America, this novel will give you an insight into their world and hopefully, generate some sympathy for hard-working individuals, just wanting to work the land just enough to have enough.
This review was first published on Reedsy Discovery where I was privileged to read it as an ARC.