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Pulling Down the Barn

Memories of a Rural Childhood

Anne-Marie Oomen

Award Winner

Creative Nonfiction, Memoir, Michigan

Great Lakes Books Series

Paperback
Published: July 2004
ISBN: 9780814332337
Pages: 152 Size: 6x9
eBOOK
Published: July 2004
ISBN: 9780814335796
Review

Anne-Marie Oomen has written a perfect gem of a book: deceptively quiet, delicately structured, but with the enduring force, strength, and brilliance of a diamond.

— A. Manette Ansay

Pulling Down the Barn eloquently recalls author Anne-Marie Oomen’s personal journey as she discovers herself an outsider on her family farm located in western Michigan’s Oceana County, in the township of Elbridge—a couple hundred acres in the middle of rural America. Written as a series of heartfelt interlocking narratives, this collection of essays portrays the realities of farm life: haying, picking asparagus and cherries, the machinery of tractors and pickers; but each chapter also touches upon the more ethereal and rarely articulated: the stoic love that permeates a family, the farmer’s struggle with identity, and the way land can shape a childhood. With its rich language and style, Pulling Down the Barn engrosses the reader in Oomen’s memories—setting beauty and wonder against work and loss—and paints a poignant portrait of growing up in rural Michigan.

Anne-Marie Oomen is chair of the Creative Writing Department at Interlochen Art Academy.

Pulling Down the Barn is a vivid and magical work. Oomen's richly evocative prose makes palpable not just a sensual childhood on a Michigan farm-the smell of hay, the sounds of honeybees-but also the landscape of a young girl's imagination. Here where the fields reign as indifferent gods and family can be both blessing and burden, a young girl learns to negotiate between camaraderie and loneliness."

– Barbara Hurd, author of Entering the Stone: On Caves and Feeling Through the Dark

Anne-Marie Oomen has written a perfect gem of a book: deceptively quiet, delicately structured, but with the enduring force, strength, and brilliance of a diamond."

– A. Manette Ansay, author of Limbo and Vinegar Hill

The wind sings through the pages of this wonderful memoir of coming of age on an American farm. You can hear the waves on Lake Michigan, feel snowflakes on your face, watch dust motes spiraling in the hay loft. This is a book about courage and endurance and the grace to be found in simple moments. Anne-Marie Oomen is a writer of extraordinary sensitivity and a master of the literature of engagement."

– Jerry Dennis, author of A Place on the Water and The Living Great Lakes

Pulling Down the Barn is a wonderfully lyrical and evocative memoir. In this honest and powerful coming-of-age family story, Anne-Marie Ooomen utilizes a poet's eye to lovingly depict the beauty of the northern Michigan landscape, while at the same time finding a kind of dark splendor in its sometimes harsh and raw climate. A must-read for those who love memoirs about settling and place.

– Michael Steinberg, founding editor of Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction and author of Still Pitching: A Memoir

Anne-Marie Oomen has left the Oceana County farm where she grew up, but the farm is never very far from her heart. Oomen puts that heart onto the pages in this series of essays that bring to life the details of farm life. Each essay is deep with her remembering, her vision, her sense of place, her love for family, her heart.

– The Grand Rapids Press

You can't take the farm out of the girl' is a statement that Anne-Marie Oomen would not only accede to, but has found ways to celebrate in this well-written memoir. She, the writer, has gone beyond her rural roots, but here she pays her loving debts to the people and the natural world that so inform her attractive sensibility."

– Stephen Dunn, winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize in poetry for Different Hours

  • 2005 Michigan Notable Book Awards - Result: 1 of 20 selected annually
  • 2005 Michigan Notable Book Awards - Result: 1 of 20 selected annually