The Farmer’s Son is an unflinching yet tender memoir about small livestock farming way of life in rural Ireland that almost disappeared if not in Ireland than certainly in our own country. While there’s nothing romantic about such a hardscrabble life Connell’s account of his careful and humane husbandry is profoundly moving.
— From The Farmer’s Son
For fans of James Herriot, a poignant memoir—and #1 Irish bestseller—about a wayward son’s return home to his family’s farm, and how he found a new beginning in an age-old world
Farming has been in John Connell's family for generations, but he never intended to follow in his father's footsteps. Until, one winter, after more than a decade away, he finds himself back on the farm.
Connell records the hypnotic rhythm of the farming day—cleaning the barns, caring for the herd, tending to sickly lambs, helping the cows give birth. Alongside the routine events, there are the unforeseen moments when things go wrong: when a calf fails to thrive, when a sheep goes missing, when illness breaks out, when an argument between father and son erupts and things are said that cannot be unsaid.
The Farmer’s Son is the story of a calving season, and the story of a man who emerges from depression to find hope in the place he least expected to find it. It is the story of Connell's life as a farmer, and of his relationship with the community of County Longford, with his faith, with the animals he tends, and, above all, with his father.
About the Author
JOHN CONNELL’s work has been published in Granta’s New Irish Writing issue. His memoir, The Farmer’s Son, was a #1 bestseller in Ireland. He lives on his family farm, Birchview, in County Longford, Ireland.
Winner of the 2018 An Post Irish Book Award/Ireland AM Popular Non-Fiction Book of the Year
An iBooks Most Anticipated Titles of 2019
“This book is a vivid and sharply observed account of a way of life which is almost invisible, a new hidden Ireland. It is also a fascinating portrait of a single sensibility, a born noticer, someone on whom nothing is lost, observing birth and death, the landscape, and his own heritage.”
—Colm Tóibín, author of Brooklyn and Nora Webster
“A gorgeous evocation of farm life’s recurring cycle of births, deaths, seasons, weather, chores and life lessons, all spun into a lovely web of stories illuminated by crystalline prose. What comes through on every page is Mr. Connell’s heart and humility—and his profound appreciation for the animals who depend on him for their well-being, and vice versa.” –The Wall Street Journal
“I usually view rural Ireland from a train or car window, but reading this gripping, fascinating book I felt I was becoming a cattle farmer.”
“One of the most striking features of [The Farmer’s Son] is that, although John Connell is describing years-old farming practices, it feels as though you are reading about them for the first time. Connell’s vivid writing brings his subject matter to life and makes the reader feel connected to the birth and death cycles on a typical farm . . . There is much to praise here, from the way the author writes about the animals in his care, to his openness about depression and intelligent reflections on the state of modern farming. A natural writer, Connell is also a sympathetic and wise observer of the eternal struggle involving humans and animals.”
—Sunday Times (UK)
“Connell’s moving memoir tracks his life on the family farm, his fights with his father, and charts humanity’s long relationship with cattle . . . This is a brooding, powerful memoir about a twenty-nine-year-old man’s return to the family farm in Ireland and his difficult relationship with his taciturn and short-tempered father.”
“Old ways meet new and the generations work out their tensions all over again in this evocative memoir…In John Connell, Ireland might find its Wendell Berry.”
“The Farmer's Son is a powerful, beautiful story about the tug of land, the meaning of home and one man's place in the world.”
“An honest, vivid reckoning of what it’s like to simultaneously belong and not belong, [The Farmer’s Son] becomes John Connell’s meditation on the real meaning of home and place.”
“One of the joys of this book is the prose, its clean plainness offset by the glorious cadences of Irish speech . . . Surely a prize winner.”
"In the spaces between its passages of intimate pastoral meditation, [The Farmer’s Son]’s historical examination of our deep relationship with our bovine friends reads like a history of conflict, both with and over these important creatures.”
“Admirably raw and unsentimental . . . An original and thought-provoking book.”
—Mail on Sunday
“A compelling portrait of life on a farm, one that may be alien to many but which Connell brings to life with vivid, unsentimental brush strokes . . . Connell stakes his claim with a book of beauty, warmth and empathy that is a memorable guide not only to life on a small Irish farm but also on how to live life itself.”
“John Connell writes about the connection between people and land in a way that goes beyond mere affection. For him, farming is hard graft and yet a spiritual process too that binds him to family, nationhood, language and myth.”
—Andrew Michael Hurley, author of Devil’s Day and The Loney
“A beautiful book. The author's voice is as honest and tender as his eye is clear and sharp. The apparent simplicity of its subject matter belies the poetic power of the writing. This poignant book is about family, about our ties to the land, and about the cycles of life and death that mark our days.”
—Zia Haider Rahman
“John Connell's The Farmer’s Son starts well . . . and gets better. This is an important slice of living, breathing agricultural history, written with absolute honesty by an insider who has the rare quality of being able to see it from the outside too.”
—Rosamund Young, author of The Secret Life of Cows
“A gorgeous read, full of warmth, truth and tentative wonder. John Connell has written “an elegy to the nature I know,” but this book is an elegy to so much more—to art and myth and sorrow and longing.”
—Sara Baume, author of Spill Simmer Falter Wither
“A thoughtful, often luminous portrait of an ancient, valuable way of life that is in danger of disappearing.” —Shelf Awareness
“A beautifully written memoir of the challenges faced when returning home.”
“A deeply felt, unforgettable story that will linger in readers' imaginations.”
—Kirkus Reviews, STARRED review
“Comforting, gentle and just a good read.”—The Missourian
“Deeply thoughtful…This gem is compelling reading.”—Library Journal (Starred Review)
"The Farmer’s Son echoes Aldo Leopold’s articulation of the land ethic, Michael Pollan’s writing on the food chain, and Ivan Doig’s plain-language music. Admirers of these writers will celebrate the entrance of Connell’s strong and distinct voice."—Booklist