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South of the Big Four

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South of the Big Four

Current Status:
In Season
Don Kurtz

We gave it a B

If you love the grit of soil under your nails and the grind of a traditional farm workday, but you’d rather read about it than do it, then Don Kurtz’s fine first novel, South of the Big Four, is for you. With family farms dying out all over, 30-year-old Arthur Conason returns to his dad’s old spread to work for Gerry Maars, who now farms the land. Maars is the kind of American for whom nothing exists in life but the work to be done. (”Hell of a shame to lose a man like Al,” says Maars of a recent death. ”Especially this time a year, when we’re so damn busy.”) But he can’t adapt to the modern world, and like the family farm, he’s doomed to extinction. Though Kurtz’s prose is as flat and unsurprising as Midwest cropland, and his narrative meanders like a lazy creek on level ground, he’s still thinking and making us think the whole time. The up close intimacy of this painful Indiana tale survives. B