Tony Earley Writing with extraordinary empathy and grace...Campbell raises to our ears a sound not heard often enough: the heartrending cry of the human heart in all its flawed complexity.
Denver Rocky Mountain News Campbell's spare, evocative prose is pure artistry, but her unusual characters and her unique way of linking the continuity of time with the land's inhabitants prove her a writer to watch.
Los Angeles Times The broad tableau of aluminum siding versus pig manure is rendered here with delicate, exacting strokes.
Publishers Weekly A thoughtful, well-paced, deeply moral (though not moralizing) novel full of hard lessons and the wisdom gained from them across generations.
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Bonnie Jo Campbell, the multifaceted author of Q Road, has scaled the Swiss Alps on a bike, traveled with the circus, and led adventure tours through Russia. Now, in her heartwarming and humorous first novel, she shares carefully gleaned insights into human nature through the lives of the unconventional residents of Kalamazoo County, Michigan.
Life on the eponymous Q Road revolves around George Harland and his working farm. An industrious man with a genuine soul, George fears he will lose the land that his been in his family for generations, like the long-banished Native Americans, the original inhabitants of the homestead now entrusted to him. His young bride, Rachel, feels an almost overwhelming connection to her husband and the land yet is hiding dark secrets from her past. But it is the couple's unlikely friendship with a neglected neighborhood boy that sparks a tragic event serving as a catalyst for the entire community.
In her lucidly written novel, Campbell's close-knit cast is held together by a tumultuous historical thread. This long and tangled skein encompasses a young girl's suicide, a struggling community whose members depend on each other for survival, a schoolteacher ruthlessly cast from her home, and a tornado that nearly destroys them all. Much like the wooly bear caterpillars that open the novel by crossing a road in the process of transformation, the people of Q Road are heading for a day that will change the future for them all.
(Fall 2002 Selection)
A farm in rural Kalamazoo County, Mich., provides the backdrop for Campbell's appealing first novel, a May-December love story augmented by suspense, secrets and Native American mysticism. Rachel Crane, a homely, foul-mouthed teenager, lives on a houseboat with her reclusive mother, Margo. They are tenants of George Harland, whose wife abandoned him to maintain his declining farm alone. Rachel is as antisocial as her mother: her one friend is David Retakker, a young asthmatic who idolizes George. Her sexuality is awakened by George's reprobate younger brother, Johnny, but when Margo catches them together, she shoots him dead, then disappears without a trace. George becomes irresistibly drawn to the strange girl and asks her to marry him; she accepts, but just so she can inherit "his damned land," to which she feels entitled because of her Native American ancestry. Only in an extended climax, when David's life is imperiled, does Rachel begin to allow herself to feel genuine love for anything but the land. The cast of well-developed supporting characters includes April May Rathburn, an old woman with some dark secrets; her nephew, Tom Parks, a cop who's suspicious of Margo's and Johnny's disappearances; and Milton Taylor, the born-again owner of the Barn Grill. Coincidence and synchronicity among land, animals, humans and weather are cards Campbell (Women and Other Animals) plays too often; likewise, descriptions of Rachel's profound connection to the earth (the girl all but sprouts roots) become tiresome. However, it would take more than that to spoil this thoughtful, well-paced, deeply moral (though not moralizing) novel full of hard lessons and the wisdom gained from them across generations. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Winner of the 1998 Associated Writing Programs Award in Short Fiction, Campbell launches her career as novelist with this account of "Q Road," where old-time farmers meet grasping suburbanites head on. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Social change threatens the longtime residents of Kalamazoo County, Michigan, but the verities of land and love endure-in this dark but finally hopeful debut. The action covers a single day, October 9, 1999, with the characters' memories going back to 1930s, when a tornado racked the area after a local schoolteacher was exiled for sleeping with a hired hand; and, farther, to the 1830s, when white homesteaders began to push the Potawatomi Indians off their native terrain. Rachel Crane, 17, is recently married to 50-year-old George Harland-because she wants his land, she tells herself, though we sense that she reciprocates at least a little of George's deep yearning for her. Asthmatic 12-year-old David Retakker idolizes George, who's holding on as a farmer while his neighbors sell out to developers. Subdivisions are springing up, peopled by urban transplants who overtax police officer Tom Parks with complaints about burglar alarms set off by raccoons and about the smell of pig manure. The omniscient narrator doesn't romanticize the way of life these interlopers are destroying: we see drunkenness, bigotry, and cruelty among the locals as well as neuroses and ignorance among the new arrivals. This is a harsh, unforgiving world: when David accidentally sets fire to George's barn, the narrator informs us, "There was no reason to think that the fire . . . would give a damn about the flesh and bones of one small boy, even if [he] could have kept at bay for another generation the builders and real estate agents who wanted to divide this wide fertile tract into unproductive rectangles and smother it with foundations for homes, concrete driveways, and choking lawns." But David does survive,provisionally, and the author has so powerfully conveyed her protagonists' grit and determination that we close the novel feeling they may yet prevail. Blunt and bleak, but the vivid, varied cast and palpable sense of connection to the soil give it a stern grandeur.