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South of the Big Four

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  136 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
The story of a man returning after many years to his family's abandoned farmhouse in Indiana reveals an American Midwest where community, trust, and commitment are no longer at the center and a way of life is rapidly disappearing.
Hardcover, 380 pages
Published June 1st 1995 by Chronicle Books (CA)
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Jul 11, 2008 Haven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best novel ever written about Midwestern farm life. There simply is nothing better.
Feb 01, 2013 Candice rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, what a character. at first I am liking him, then unsure of him, then liking him again, then surprised by him, then confused about was a fantastic book, the writer has a wonderful way of getting you to know this man at an incredible level. Arthur is so simple, and yet complex and comfortable as your favorite blanket. His friendship to his boss is nothing short of the true meaning OF friendship, I fell in love with each and every character. great job Mr. Kurtz, great job.
Jun 07, 2014 Ron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Set in the farmland of north central Indiana "South of the Big Four" tells the story of Haskell County, the farm people who live and work the land and their struggle to make a go of a disappearing way of life. The plot centers around a young farmhand named Arthur who returns from working the iron ore barges on the Great Lakes to take up planting and harvesting work as hired man for the County's most prosperous, but fading, grower and local politician Gerry Marrs. This is a well written story wit ...more
Jul 09, 2014 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well-written character study of a young man who returns home to the family farm and the people and memories he left behind. We are at times charmed and confused by Arthur's actions or lack thereof. We see his love affair with the hardships of farming and his workaholic boss, Gerry Maars. At times it seems he is incapable of forming a lasting relationship, but it is the one with Gerry that remains a constant as he drifts through questionable love affairs without thought of the consequences. An in ...more
Ellen Hampton
Aug 05, 2014 Ellen Hampton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lyrical writing, vivid characters, an intimate view of life in a small midwestern farming community. Don Kurtz made farming life feel as limited as the back 40, characters stuck in a life that repeats from generation to generation, and knowing little else, they remain in the cycle. It is who they are and who they will be. It reminded me of stories Gabriel Garcia Marquez likes to tell, minus the magic. But the characters are drawn with convincing detail that pulls the reader in and keeps you chee ...more
Zhaodan Kong
Aug 20, 2014 Zhaodan Kong rated it really liked it
Shelves: novel-and-others
At a first glance, the novel is almost uneventful as the Indiana terrain. However, slowly but surely you can feel the decline of a way of life and the loss of innocence flowing out of the pages. The ending is also characteristically uneventful, with the two main characters, who could have symbolized the passing of the old-fashioned farming life, beaten and drained out of life. There doesn't seem to be a future for the young Arther unless he chooses to escape just as what Annie did.
Eugene Smolenskiy
I loved how genuine this book feels. You can really tell that the author knows this way of living and has borne witness to its passing. This is by no means a fast-paced book; it forces you to take full stock of the time and place. I never thought I'd be interested in reading about the decline of family farming in rural, northern Indiana, but what captivated me is getting to experience a place so foreign, and a time so far removed from my own.
Jul 07, 2014 Razz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
A very slow starting book. But after awhile, I enjoyed the planting of soybeans and corn,.the weather that controls it (snow, heat) and the cost and upkeep of the trucks and combines, and the ability to change with the times as productivity and efficiency increases
with better machines. A good human interest story too: brother against brother, the lure of love and sex, old timers vs the young whippersnappers, and the incredible cost to those who farm a sometimes unforgivable land.
Feb 13, 2016 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this look at agriculture in northern Indiana in the 1990s but several elements keep it from being a book club contender. Would like to read more from this author but he hasn't done much more from what I can see. Partially a Hoosier: he worked on his uncle's farm in Indiana for a few years.
Kevin Summers
Jul 27, 2016 Kevin Summers rated it liked it
Shelves: adult
Sample quote: "All the farmers thought they could be sober, decent people, and that would be enough. They thought they could keep on doing things the way they always had, but people showed up who knew better. Young farmers came in, guys like Gerry Maars, and they passed us right by like we were standing still."
A Ghandour
Interesting and sad but not wonderful. the book clearly explains the problems of farmers in today 's world and how hard it is to keep the farming and farmer life afloat. If I knew more about farm machinery it might have helped.
Jun 02, 2014 Irene rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book about life on the farm. Main character could be exasperating at times and kind of a jerk, but all in all, good read. At times, it did drag on and it kind of left me feeling "what happens next", but I did enjoy reading about a very different lifestyle than what I have.
Years after reading this book, I recall it's simple elegance.
Jun 02, 2014 Rose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoughtful character driven first novel about contemporary farming in the mid-west (Indiana). Liked this novel.
Rose Abriani
Somewhat interesting if you know Indiana and farming. He was a hard working but un-affilitated guy. Wish he could have found someone or something to call his own.
I wanted to like this story of mid-west farming a lot more than I actually did. Didn't care about any of the characters, mostly.
Sue Macdonald
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Michael Nye rated it it was amazing
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Lisa Wilber rated it really liked it
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Peter Harben rated it it was amazing
Sep 04, 2013
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