First, the Goodreads description of this book is actually the description of Harrison's The Farmer's Daughter which is a collection of three novellas and written 33 years after this one.Fortunately, I found this in the $1 must-go shelves of a used bookstore and, thumbing through it, could see that it was a completely different book.(That's been corrected by Teresa so, you know, never mind.)
Farmer is one of Harrison's earliest works.He works his usual themes here but without the polish of later efforts.Very few aphorisms to guide me.
The eponymous farmer is Joseph Lundgren, consigned to be a teacher because of a leg damaged in a farm equipment accident.But they're going to close the Upper Michigan school where he teaches, his mother is dying and he has to decide whether he really loves his old sweetheart Rosalee or a senior student named Catherine.He's painted as a good but flawed man who maybe just doesn't give a shit any more.
His friend is a 70 year-old doctor who shares many of his vices but serves as oracle.Dr. Evans steals the show.
Harrison's male characters are invariable sex-obsessed and prone to alcoholism.(He may be projecting.)But Harrison also is surprisingly enlightened for, as here, an author writing in the 1970s.For instance, Joseph tells Dr. Evans that Rosalee's son is homosexual and he asks the doctor what they can do about it.Dr. Evans replies:
"Nothing.You can start by leaving him alone.He'll probably move to the city where he can find some friends.So don't say much and don't let Rosalee say much.He's a man and it's his business and you can't change him.Some are and most aren't and it's always been like that."
It was nice, comforting to be reading Jim Harrison again, but this was hardly his best effort.