Book of the Week: ‘The Farmer’s Son’

The Farmer’s Son:Calving Season on a Family Farm

John Connell

2018, 243 pages



John’s family has been in farming in Ireland for generations. But as a young man John left the farming life to pursue a writing career. He lived in Australia and Canada and wrote articles and books. But things went wrong, and John came home to Ireland to work on the farm. John became depressed, and writes honestly about how it affected him. A variety of people helped him, his friends, family, and health workers. And exercise – he found that running and bicycling also helped him.

John pays close attention to the animals in his care. The book begins with him attempting a tricky delivery of a calf by himself. He feeds the stock and cleans their pens, and helps with the calving and lambing at all hours and in all kinds of weather. He cares about the animals. At one point he kisses the top of a curly lamb’s head. The animals need him. The cows “roar” for his attention. There are happy moments, times when the animals recover from a sickness, and time spent with his Granny and friends. And there are also sad times when an animal dies. He writes of the history of the cow and its place in Ireland, the history of the cow in America.

He gets along well with his mother, who is a wonderful farmer, but he has terrible arguments with his father. It seems that they cannot say “How are you?” or “I love you” to each other out loud, but must communicate through talking about the sheep.

John reflects deeply about the farm, about the animals they care for, and his place in the world. Can he be a farmer and writer, too? This is a warm, candid account of a way of life that few choose. John is an unusual and thoughtful man, and truly a farmer’s son.

Robbin Bailey

Concord Public Library

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Author: Insider Staff

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