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Weeds: A Farm Daughter’s Lament by Evelyn Funda

A memoir about the loss of the family farm, and everything it means to the child of immigrant farmers–and to us all.
weeds
Evelyn Funda’s mother escaped Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in a wine barrel, eventually landing in the United States. Her father was the son of Czech immigrants, early homesteaders who sought to make farmland of the Idaho desert. The family farm never felt like it would be Evelyn’s: this “farm daughter,” unwelcome among the tractors and irrigation pipes, would leave to become a college professor. Her musing memoir opens in the fall of 2001 with a triple tragedy: the sale of the family farm; her father’s cancer diagnosis; and her mother’s death, closely followed by her father’s.

Weeds is an elegy, an academic’s personal tale of research and disillusionment, and Evelyn’s own story–with hints of a botanist’s or social historian’s study. (The chapters are named for weeds, beginning with dodder, which she long misheard as “daughter,” when her father cursed the unwelcome growth.) The pursuit of her mother’s joyful youth in a series of cities and countries, of the truth of her grandfather’s apocryphal tales, of her parents’ romance and of the history of her own hometown takes Evelyn to dusty library stacks and to small Czech villages, where she meets dozens of cousins and examines old bones.

Meditative and lyrical, Weeds smoothly braids weeds with family. Funda is sometimes frustrated along the way, but finally satisfied with the personal history she builds for herself–and the conclusion that, even in exile, one can find a sense of place and of belonging.


This review originally ran in the September 6, 2013 issue of Shelf Awareness for Readers. To subscribe, click here, and you’ll receive two issues per week of book reviews and other bookish fun!


Rating: 7 kolaches.

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