The quiet weight of Prairie Silence

How many truths are unspoken in a place like the Iron Range, or really any part of Minnesota? Perhaps as many as remain unsaid on the North Dakota flat lands of Melanie Hoffert’s new memoir “Prairie Silence: A Memoir.” Hoffert’s debut book is an excellent read, one that absorbed my long weekend. I’ll explore it next Sunday in my newspaper column, but here is a passage that stood out but didn’t quite fit the piece I wrote:


“Sometimes I wonder if I will be the last generation of my family to live on the land, to know the land. And sometimes I wonder if I am the first generation of a larger kind: the first generation of people to finally and permanently leave the land, the small towns, and the Lutheran churches where they still make coffee by mixing a raw egg with the grounds. The first generation to realize that the world of rural America — both the good and the bad of it — will never again be as it once was. The first generation to look back and say, with sadness, I cannot return.”

But Hoffert does return, and her experience makes for a fine book. I also did not have room in the column to commiserate with Hoffert over her experiences dealing with mechanical problems on the farm. Those passages very much remind me of times my dad or others in my family attempted to explain engines to me.

I should know. I grew up around machines. I know the sound of the mechanical language, the smell of the shop. But something about the machines remains out of my reach, like a voice telling me to move along.

Stay tuned for Sunday, but you can probably tell that I recommend the book.

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