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Check It Out: The Farmer’s Son: Calving Season on a Family Farm by John Connell

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This is Kelsey Patterson with the Sioux City Public Library and you’re listening to Check It Out. Today, I’m recommending The Farmer’s Son: Calving Season on a Family Farm by John Connell. A #1 Irish bestseller, this poignant memoir is perfect for fans of James Herriot, Ted Genoways, or really any reader interested in farming and rural life.

Farming has been in John Connell’s family for generations, but he never intended to follow in his father’s footsteps. Until, one winter, after more than a decade away, he finds himself back on the farm. 

Connell records the hypnotic rhythm of the farming day—cleaning the barns, caring for the herd, tending to sickly lambs, helping the cows give birth. Alongside the routine events, there are the unforeseen moments when things go wrong: when a calf fails to thrive, when a sheep goes missing, when illness breaks out, when an argument between father and son erupts and things are said that cannot be unsaid.   

The Farmer’s Son is the story of Connell’s life as a farmer, and of his relationship with the community of County Longford, with his faith, with the animals he tends, and, above all, with his father. 

As a journalist, Connell infuses his book with moody, lyrical writing, that pays thoughtful, descriptive attention to not only his own complicated story and family relationships, but touches on factory farming and livestock welfare concerns, climate change, and the importance of his Irish community. This memoir was so much more than I expected. Connell has a way with words and as the reader, you feel the heart and soul behind each and every one. 

Check out The Farmer’s Son and other nature-focused memoirs like it at the Sioux City Public Library. For even more book recommendations, subscribe to our podcast, The First Fifty Pages, available on Google Play, Stitcher, and iTunes.

Support for Check It Out on Siouxland Public Media comes from Avery Brothers.