"With great skill, and with infinite care, Mr. Harnack contrasts the solidity and stolidity of Robert's marriage with the uncertainty and the continuing sense of romance that Alma cherishes in her choice." (The New Yorker)
"American writing at its finest." (St. Louis Post Dispatch)
"A story that compels attention, an intelligent and meaningful novel." (The New York Times)
Author Bio: Curtis Harnack's linked novels that are set in the rural Midwest are The Work of an Ancient Hand, Love and Be Silent, and Limits of the Land. He wrote Gentlemen on the Prairie, a history of British settlers; a collection of short fiction, Under My Wings Everything Prospers; an acclaimed memoir, We Have All Gone Away, plus a sequel, The Attic.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Love and Be Silent is the seventh Harnack book I've read in the last couple of years. I feel like Curtis Harnack is one of the best kept secrets in American literature. But I'm pretty sure that wasn't always true. Because We Have All Gone Away, his memoir of Iowa farm life during the Depression and War years, is widely considered a classic of the genre. And the sequel memoir, The Attic, is equally good. But 40-50 years ago Harnack was also recognized as a highly skilled writer of fiction. Love and Be Silent is the middle novel of what I'll call the Kaleburg trilogy, for the fictional small Iowa farming community that forms the backdrop for much of Harnack's fiction. (The other two are The Work of an Ancient Hand and The Limits of the Land.) I wish now that I'd read them in order, and a bit closer together, so I'd remember more about the other two books. It's not that they're not memorable; it's that I'm just getting too damn old and read too many books to be able to remember it all anymore. But I do know that there are multiple characters that overlap all three books, and I'm sure that taken together they do indeed form a nearly seamless trilogy, even though they were written over the course of about 15 years. This particular book was written in 1962. I don't know how well it sold, but one review then called it "American writing at its finest," an opinion with which I heartily agree nearly fifty years later. One would be hard-pressed to find a more articulate and moving description of the complexities of marriage and human relationships than the story presented here. While it might be easy to dismiss Harnack's novels as "regional" writing or "period pieces," it would be wrong. Because Curtis Harnack writes about the nitty-gritty everyday problems of trying to make a life, of trying to find love and meaning in that life and what it means to be human, whether it's on an Iowa farm in the 1930s or 40s or in an urban setting of the 21st century. People are people, and, reading Harnack's stories, you come to realize that they have changed very little in the past fifty years. That early reviewer was right. This is indeed - still - "American writing at its finest."