978-088982-237-5 / 384pp / $22.95
Leaving the Farm is a poignant, funny, beautifully rendered memoir about growing up on a small Minnesota dairy farm in the 1950s. It was a time when family farms throughout North America were beginning to disappear. Tracing his family’s roots from Quebec and Saskatchewan to Minnesota, Ross Klatte tells the story of the struggle between a bookish, daydreaming boy and his self-made, driven father—the tension between real life on the farm and the boy’s imaginative world.
It’s a story that lovingly delineates the richness and drudgery of farm life, the emotion of family ties, and a rapturous intimacy with nature. Above all it’s a farm boy’s story. At first, the farm, with its surrounding fields and woods, provides a natural playground for the boy. Later, called upon to do a man’s work and expected to take over the farm someday, the boy begins to feel trapped and dreams of escape. He escapes into worlds of his imagination based on avid reading and his longing for other places.
One day he is shocked awake, into dreadful reality, when his four-year-old sister is killed on the farm. Within a year and a half of that terrible accident, his parents hold an auction of their livestock and machinery and the boy leaves for Navy boot camp. This memoir is Ross Klatte’s tender requiem for his lost sister, for the father with whom he struggled for freedom, and for his childhood on the farm, whose shape has indelibly imprinted itself on the man he has become.
“Ross Klatte leads us to an epic comprehension of the loss of one family’s farm, with writing so eloquent and disarming, so deftly nuanced and intensely moving that my sorrowful empathy with the tragedy herein is balanced by the sheer pleasure of reading such good writing. This is a wonderful achievement . . .” —Caroline Woodward
“. . . both a haunting elegy for a way of life that is fast disappearing and a beautifully crafted memoir about the universal experience of growing up. Leaving the Farm is life-writing at its best.” —Ken McGoogan