"A . . . meditation on the wonder of small moments, artfully told." -Kirkus Reviews
"I told myself: I'll just read the first essay then get back to work. Instead, I got swallowed up and lost track of time within Chila Woychik's beautiful lyricism about rural living in Iowa . . . Singing the Land: A Rural Chronology pulls you in. It grows on you, grows within you. Swallows you up whole just as she is swallowed up by her rural life . . . [This book is] also an examination of ideas as she reflects on time, sound (or soundlessness), bravery, migration, and onward, probing these concepts across the months, both globally and locally. And all of this examination is a beautiful song, a lyric to her land. A song that asks us to examine, deeply, our own lands." -Sean Prentiss, author of Finding Abbey: The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave (winner of the 2015 National Outdoor Book Award for History/Biography, the Utah Book Award for Nonfiction, and the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Biography; finalist for both the Vermont and Colorado Book Awards)
"In Chila Woychik's Singing the Land: A Rural Chronology, 'rural' is not merely a location; it is an engine that feeds plentiful meditations on time, movement, farming, and family. Broken into a year in her life farming in Iowa, this collection of essays has firm roots on the farm in the present moment and yet wanders, to the Illinois of the author's childhood, to a quiet chamber in Minneapolis, and the wide open wilds of Alaska. Looking inward and outward, backwards and forwards, Woychik's language is at once playful and evocative, inviting and probing. Woychik confidently demonstrates how we are "all wrapped up in this lyric, blanketed in this kismet called rural'" -Krys Malcolm Belc, managing editor, Passages North
"Singing the Land invites us to experience a deep connection to the joys and necessities of rural living. The language is beautiful and the descriptions of rural Iowa life are intimate and familiar without ever being cliched. Woychik explores with humor and humility the varied rhythms of country living-daily, seasonal, and generational. Singing the Land would fit well on a shelf with Mary Oliver and Ted Kooser, Kathleen Norris and Jim Harrison. It could serve as a master class in the art of the lyric essay." -John Winkelman, editor, 3288 Review, Caffeinated Press
"This seamless, lovely book captures the wildness that lurks under the deceptively quiet surface of the rural middle of the US. The wildness of snowstorms, of sunsets, of wind, of mountain lions and coyotes, of crop- and life-destroying flash floods, of cows that appear suddenly in the middle of a narrow road at night, of damp-baled hay that bursts into flame. The wildness of birth and death. The wildness of soil and sky." -Sarah Beth Childers, nonfiction editor, Cimarron Review
"Word painting at its most profound." -Vincent Dublado, Readers' Favorite
"A gorgeous work of creative non-fiction that really steps beyond the standard memoir . . . I would highly recommend [it]." -K. C. Finn, Readers' Favorite
"The imagery evoked is palpable. . . Singing the Land: A Rural Chronology makes nature come to life-must-have for your collection." -Tammy Ruggles, Readers' Favorite
An Iowan woman surveys the natural world and the passage of time in this work of creative nonfiction.
Matthew Arnold famously characterized classical poets as seeing life steadily and whole, and that description also suits this book, with its purposeful rhythms and 12 chapters, one for each month. In this memoir of sorts, Woychik, who wrote The Query (2020), seems infatuated with the passing of time—the mercurial medium through which we experience all that we know. To illustrate this, she exhibits a keen eye for off-kilter stories. For example, she offers vivid evocations of winter by describing the depth of cold in Verkhoyansk, Russia; the possible origin of the word blizzard; and the nearly universal difficulties that mammals face in such unsympathetic conditions. In this way, the author circles and alludes to her own experiences. These colorful retellings accumulate and envelop the reader in cold, until a reminder that India and Australia are experiencing their summer at the same time. The confidence with which the author notes this, only to brush it aside for more cold-season ruminations, is admirable and earned, as it effectively mimics the sensation of wintertime, when the immediacy of the chill renders all memory of warm weather irrelevant or purely abstract. As the author notes in her introduction, “days are not all big ideas and self-revelation,” and seemingly small everyday experiences can be transcendent and immersive. Later, she effectively shows how her life in rural Iowa has provided her with the opportunity to engage with and contemplate nature when winter finally passes and “the Midwest shows a leg.” It results in a book that doesn’t shy from the brutality that humans and animals endure and mete out but also takes real pleasure in the world as it is. Although this cheeriness can sometimes turn saccharine-sweet, it still captures some of the delight of glimpsing something beautiful on a quiet day.
A folksy meditation on the wonder of small moments, artfully told.