The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere

The Horizontal World: Growing Up Wild in the Middle of Nowhere

3.7 3
by Debra Marquart

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Debra Marquart grew up on a family farm in rural North Dakota-on land her family had worked for generations. From the earliest age she knew she wanted out; surely life had more to offer than this unyielding daily grind, she thought. But she was never able to abandon it completely.


Debra Marquart grew up on a family farm in rural North Dakota-on land her family had worked for generations. From the earliest age she knew she wanted out; surely life had more to offer than this unyielding daily grind, she thought. But she was never able to abandon it completely.

Editorial Reviews
No matter how far we wander, it's an indisputable fact that who we are is intimately connected to where we're from. In this splendid family memoir, Debra Marquart explores the complicated geography of home and the strange symbiosis between place and identity. Raised on her family's North Dakota farm, a place she loathed for its unending drudgery, Marquart couldn't wait to shake the dust of the Great Plains from her feet. Yet, years later, when she returned for her beloved father's funeral, she rediscovered a connection to the land and to her family's pioneer history that surprised her mightily. For all of us who have stood poised between the need to escape and the desire to return home, this poignant and beautifully written book rings singularly true.
Julia Sheeres
The author’s elegant, understated sentences are as fertile as freshly tilled rows of loam.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
From the first word, Marquart (The Hunger Bone) makes clear that she's got some reckoning to do with her home place, damning horny farmboys and the "seeds" they plant in the first paragraph of this rich memoir of growing up on a North Dakota farm. She got out as soon as she could, looking back only years later when her father's death pulls her home. Marquart explores her childhood as a victim of endless chores (wryly noting the word chores is "always plural") and isolation that was unbearable, especially for a contact-hungry teen. Everything Marquart touches gains light and color, from the monotony of the work and the tactics she developed to avoid it to the land itself and the untold price her foremothers paid to settle it. All of her narrative's wanderlust, however, brings her back to her father, sowing insight into his respect for her pursuit of a different life and her growing connection to how he lived his. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Farm kids tend to fall into two different categories: those who cannot imagine any other kind of life, and those who can't wait to get away from the land. Author Debra Marquart was clearly one of the latter, leaving her generations-old family farmstead in North Dakota ("one of the big empty rectangle states") to develop her interests in writing and poetry. She found success in both, ending up as a published writer with a post in academia, and with one foot in the music world to boot. But each of us is the product of his or her own upbringing, of course, and Marquart eventually found the need to share hers. The result is one of the best growing-up-on-the-farm memoirs to see print in quite some time. From childhood, Marquart eyed her family and her lineage, and brooded over the long relationship of her forbears to the great tracts of dry prairie that bound them for generations. Farm roots tend to run deep in the Upper Midwest, and numerous people today live on the land their great-grandparents homesteaded. The author gleefully points out that it was always the town girls who fell for the muscled farm boys, while the farm girls escaped to jobs in faraway cities. Yet this is only half true, and the--call it mystical--pull of the stubborn farmland still exerts a powerful influence upon those who have ever worked it. Throughout this captivating memoir, Marquart helps the reader understand something of this rural phenomenon, as well as a great deal about herself. Age Range: Ages 15 to adult. REVIEWER: Raymond Puffer, Ph.D. (Vol. 42, No. 1)
Library Journal
The Horizontal World reveals the depth of Marquart's (The Hunger Bone: Rock & Roll Stories) connection to her family's multigenerational farm in North Dakota through a series of stories, each of them based on a powerful personal recollection. The stories most accessible to the reader are the ones in which Marquart's character is brought strongly into the forefront, either as a recalcitrant kid, a wild teenager, or a mulish adult. Flashes of who she is now-a lyrical poet, writer, and teacher-are also apparent. Additionally, the book serves to chronicle the places that have rooted, and uprooted, the Marquart clan, and in this respect, works well as a memoir. When presented alone, the scientific and historical information used to offset Marquart's personal narrative seems too studied. When elaborated upon-i.e., the consequences and context of bare-bones facts further imagined-they work to enrich this beautiful memoir. Recommended for public and academic libraries.-Maria Kochis, California State Univ. Lib., Sacramento Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A memoir in the tradition of William Least Heat-Moon and Larry Wiowode about growing up in rural North Dakota. Poet and fiction-writer Marquart (The Hunger Bone, 2001, etc.) recalls her 1960s childhood on her parents' farm. When not at school, she was milking cows or picking rocks out of the fields. She envied the town girls their carefree, chore-less existences and was determined not to marry a farm-boy and be saddled with her mother's life. As a teenager, she escaped, going to college and then breaking her parents hearts by dropping out. Marquart's sure prose carries the reader along like a river: "If you installed my memory like a slotted reel on a player piano, the ghostly keys would play out this tune: There is the gravel turnoff to Grandma and Grandpa Geist's old place; there's the farm where the Doll triplets lived." Writing about her parents, the author is generous but sharp-eyed. Indeed, any parents unlucky enough to beget memoirists should hope to be described as the elder Marquarts are. But she fails to deliver on the book's prologue, which promises a story about her leaving and returning-emotionally if not literally-to North Dakota. Although Marquart includes an account of her father's funeral, which necessitated a trip back home, it is never clear that she has really made her peace with North Dakota. Further, there are a few distracting gaps in the narrative. Marquart details her rebellious 20s, during which she toured with rock bands and never had enough money for food or rent, and she makes it clear that she eventually landed on her feet as an associate professor of English at Iowa State, but she never fully explains how she got from touring to teaching. A few more pagesfilling in these lacunae would have elevated this spare book. Evocative, fresh and lovely, if incomplete.

Product Details

Counterpoint Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.96(w) x 10.88(h) x 0.83(d)

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