Memory of Trees: A Daughter's Story of a Family Farm

Overview

Memory of Trees is a multigenerational story of Gayla Marty’s family farm near Rush City, Minnesota. Cleared from woodlands by her great-grandfather Jacob in the 1880s, the farm passed to her father, Gordon, and his brother, Gaylon. Hewing to a conservative Swedish Baptist faith, the two brothers worked the farm, raising their families in side-by-side houses.

As the years go by, the families grow—and slowly grow apart. Uncle Gaylon, more doctrinaire in his faith, rails against ...

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Memory of Trees: A Daughter's Story of a Family Farm

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Overview

Memory of Trees is a multigenerational story of Gayla Marty’s family farm near Rush City, Minnesota. Cleared from woodlands by her great-grandfather Jacob in the 1880s, the farm passed to her father, Gordon, and his brother, Gaylon. Hewing to a conservative Swedish Baptist faith, the two brothers worked the farm, raising their families in side-by-side houses.

As the years go by, the families grow—and slowly grow apart. Uncle Gaylon, more doctrinaire in his faith, rails against the permissiveness of Gayla’s parents. Financial tensions arise as well when the farm economy weakens and none of the children is willing or able to take over. Gayla is encouraged to leave for college, international travel, and city life, but the farm remains essential to her sense of self, even after the family decides to sell the land.

When Gaylon has an accident on a tractor, Gayla becomes driven to reconnect with him and to find out why she and her uncle—once so close but now estranged—were the only two members of the family who had resisted selling the land. Guided by vivid images of the farm’s many beautiful trees, she pores over sacred and classical works as well as layers of her own memory to understand the forces that have transformed the American landscape and culture in the last half of the twentieth century. Beneath the belief in land as a giver of life and blessing, she discovers a powerful anxiety born of human uprootedness and loss. Movingly written, Memory of Trees will resonate for many with attachments to small towns or farms, whether they continue to work the land or, like so many, have left for a different life.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This book, with its singular ‘daughter’s voice,’ is a rare and wonderful confluence of vision, family history, and fine writing. It adds a much-needed perspective to the Midwestern experience." —Will Weaver

"Gayla Marty has written the elegy for the American family farm we've been waiting for. But this is an elegy too steadfast to be satisfied with regret. The prose burns with a transparent light, documenting a way of life and unearthing a family saga that together achieve the power of history. Part memoir, part social anthropology, Memory of Trees is a moving, spirited inquiry into a lost—or perhaps abandoned—American ideal. Already it feels like a classic." —Patricia Hampl

"Memory of Trees is the most comforting kind of farm memoir—sad, yes, but written with an open heart to the rural trinity: farm, family, and faith. . . . This one is for the smart little girls who adored their hardworking, faith-driven, farming fathers. It is for women displaced from home, who eventually integrate into the rhythms of city life, and then watch as claims to home disappear with a few shaky signatures. That is not comforting—that is bone-achingly sad, turning over some real cultural grief—but Marty tells it with love. That is its comfort." —Star Tribune

"Memoirs can be cool in tone when the author seems to step back and view his or her life dispassionately. Not so with Marty, and that’s what makes this story so affecting. There have been many books written by Minnesotans about the loss of their farms, but Marty does not hide her emotions. When the family has to sell, her grief is like a howl. . . . Her evocation of the day everything is auctioned, including harnesses that had been in the family for two generations, is so painful to read you can feel Marty’s heartbreak." —Pioneer Press

"The changing face of American agriculture is a story of land, but it is also a story of families, and this wise and lyrical memoir of one daughter’s story of a family farm is a portrait worth more than a thousand facts." —Rain Taxi Review of Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816667093
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2013
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 624,252
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Gayla Marty is a writer and editor for the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota.

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Table of Contents

Contents

Prologue: As the Leaves Fell

I. Attachment

1. Light

Elm

2. Things of the Spirit

Maple

3. Two Barns

Oak

4. The Word

Birch

5. Houses

Spruce

II. Separation

6. Husbands and Wives

Apple

7. Memory of Trees

Fig

8. The Way Out

Pine

9. Wake

Cedar

Epilogue: What Remains

Acknowledgments

Notes

Publication History

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