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Forty Acres Deep by Michael Perry

Forty Acres Deep by Michael Perry

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From Sneezing Cow:

Please note: this book contains references to suicide and the death of a child, as well as blunt and accurate profanity.

When farmer Harold wakes to find his wife dead beside him in bed and snow threatening to crush the last life from his dwindling farm, he takes drastic steps toward a fresh start. Set in a world of stark wintry beauty, Forty Acres Deep is the brief, unrelenting tale of a farmer’s attempt to save the remains of his land and make sense of a world he no longer recognizes while pitilessly calling himself into account after the death of his wife and child. Seamed with grim humor and earthy revelations, it is an unforgiving story…and yet leaves open the idea that we might surrender to hope.

“I’m nervous about this one,” says author Michael Perry. “Not sure how folks will take it. Or if I should have even written it.”

Perry hatched the idea for the novella (a work of fiction shorter than a novel but longer than a short story) while fighting to save his two steel sheds from collapsing beneath a record-breaking snowfall. “I’m a softhanded writer with a couple pole barns mostly full of junk,” says Perry, “As I sweated and cursed and kneed through the drifts, I kept thinking, what if I was a real farmer, fighting to save my livelihood? Barns went down all over the state that winter. It was no joke.”

“In part I’m attempting to honor the old farming traditions,” says Perry, “but the main character is also fighting his own misguided sentimentality–the bullheadedness that keeps us hanging on when we should let go. As a farmer and a citizen he’s facing suppressed rage and powerlessness in the face of change. As a husband, he’s facing all the ways you can fall short in a marriage even as you meet the standard definition. As a parent, he’s confronting–or avoiding–the worst grief imaginable. And as a human he’s brought face-to-face with those for whom the world offers no easy space.”

“Despite the storyline, there’s some humor in there,” says Perry. “I’ve been reading bits aloud at my shows and folks do laugh. Grim chuckles, not knee-slappers. But yah, mostly this one’s not a lotta zippity-doo-dah.” Due to the serious themes, Perry shared the manuscript with farmers and members of the agricultural mental health movement before committing to publish it.