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A Country Called Home

3.46  ·  Rating Details ·  425 Ratings  ·  99 Reviews
A powerful novel of young love and rural isolation from the acclaimed author of In the Wilderness.

Thomas Deracotte is just out of medical school, and his pregnant wife, Helen, have their whole future mapped out for them in upper-crust Connecticut. But they are dreamers, and they set out to create their own farm in rural Idaho instead. The fields are in ruins when they arr
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by Anchor (first published 2008)
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(showing 1-30)
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I found this one a bit overwrought but still compelling and effective in shaking up my expectations. It’s a dark parable of an urban couple from Connecticut moving to the wilds of Idaho in the 60’s and finding themselves unprepared for the challenges they encounter, with tragic consequences.

Thomas is a newly-minted doctor with limited dedication to the profession and only seems to be happy when he is fishing. His young wife Helen longs to be a “free spirit” in response to the expectations of he
A rebellious young married couple from Connecticut make the decision to buy property in Idaho and start an idealized life. Thomas, who has just finished his training as a physician in 1960, really has no desire to be a doctor and only wants to fish in the pristine streams near his Idaho property. He's a dreamer who possesses few practical life skills and is uneasy dealing with other people. Helen is a free spirit who is uninterested in the conventional life of her wealthy parents, but who finds ...more
Linda Robinson
Jan 15, 2012 Linda Robinson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The blurb writer did not read this book. No hope, no idealism, no luminous. No home. No country for that matter. The Idaho wilderness is the bass note humming in your ears, while every single character conducts the symphony of grief unhealed, pain itching under skin, suffering oozing, regret tasted but not swallowed, the earth itself alternately boiling mud or verdant trap. Pounding, relentless misery like having stones piled on your chest until you can't breathe. There is not even a dog grinnin ...more
Nov 30, 2008 Beth rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is the most melodramatic book I have ever read. I am mystified by all the starred reviews it's gotten. The writing was good, but the plotline was over the top and the characters' motivations were, for the most part, a mystery.
Lisa Mettauer
Jul 15, 2009 Lisa Mettauer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I used to live in a town in Colorado where many hippies moved in the ’70s so they could get ‘back to the land.’ They lived in a variety of yurts, teepees, or log cabins and tried to grow all their food and can and freeze enough to make it through the year. I wasn’t that hardy. I just dabbled in making jams from the apricots and cherries that grew in orchards all around the valley. But I always enjoyed visiting my friends’ farms, and occasionally, farm sitting.

So I was intrigued by the back to th
Sep 14, 2010 Agnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Complicated love story of two, a free spirit and one who thinks she is. Their child and her development, which was rather stunted because of where they lived and her father's lassitude. The local orphan boy who seems to know lots about everythingand actually raises Elise,acting more like a father than Thomas. "Dr" Kalinsky is an interesting character, too.Doesn't have the regular elements of a 'family'.

Unusual the way author use the opening and closing to connect all of the elements of this stor
Apr 20, 2009 MJ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good story and some strong characters, but Derracotte (the husband/father) dragged down the plot. Honestly, the story would have been better without him. When I finished this novel my first thought was "what a dope". No wonder his wife was unfaithful and took a horrible risk that took her life. No wonder no one wanted to see him as a doctor, he obviously didn't care about people. And no wonder his daughter was so messed up. It's a wonder why Manny stuck it out with him for 16 years. All he wante ...more
Jun 26, 2012 Marilyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
University of Idaho professor and author, Kim Barnes, crafts a beautiful setting for a sad, dark tale of a couple who fail to discover their idyllic life in rural Northern Idaho. Tragedy besets the characters. Three weeks after reading this novel, I've decided it did reflect real life, though not life as my poly-Anna outlook desires. I'm glad I read "A Country Called Home" and will add Barnes' most recently released novel to my reading list.
Jan 21, 2009 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible read. It was quick but very intense. Both sad and uplifting at the same time. I am anxious to read more of Kim Barnes books. She is also a local, she teaches at U of I and lives on Moscow Mountain.
Jul 08, 2012 Larraine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It isn't easy for an author to make me cry even once, but Kim Barnes as done it again in this book from 2008. In 1960, fresh out of medical school, Thomas Delacotte takes his wife and love of his life, Helen to a hardscrabble property he has bought sight unseen in Idaho. Inspired by Hemingway's Nick Adams stories, he envisions a simple life away from the pressures of Connecticut and his wife's wealthy family where he can spend what turns out to be most of his time fishing, hunting for wild green ...more
Jul 23, 2010 Stacey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
It's nearly ridiculous, how good Kim Barnes' work is. I mean, you read her nonfiction, which is nothing short of amazing, and you think, "There's no way her fiction could even come close."

Then it does... what a gifted writer.

From the moment I read the short prologue — which reads more like prose poetry —I knew I was going to love this book. Barnes writes beautifully, both about people and her beloved Idaho wilderness, without being overly sentimental or flowery. Her words have a rugged quality t
Again, wishing for an "I loved it" star. But this time I went up instead of down. The lyricism certainly was not lacking. Nothing lacking. Great story--I couldn't put it down. I guess there was just a lot that was pretty similar to In the Wilderness. And why not? Same geography, some of the same time periods covered. The fishing, the religion--all well portrayed, but very clear when you've read someone's memoir just what parts are autobiographical. And man alive, too much smoking. I mean, I don' ...more
Jun 26, 2009 JoAnn/QuAppelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This somewhat difficult-to-read novel was a very sad story, but beautifully rendered. Loving writing about Idaho...its wilderness and one of its small town.

I just finished this book. You know when I sit down mid-day and read it is a book I like! Although "like" may not be the correct word for such a sad and dark story. And gritty would be another good descriptor.

I had put off finishing the book until late afternoon because I was afraid of how it was going to end. But the author managed a sensit
Eva Mitnick
An idealistic and romantic young couple, Thomas and Helen, move to the Idaho countryside to provide the nearby villagers with a doctor and to enjoy a peaceful idyll - but Helen becomes bored and unhappy when her husband seems to fish all day rather than practice medicine or spend time with her and baby Elise. A tragedy means that Elise grows up with just her distant dad and handyman Manny as company, and her lack of knowledge about the world or herself lands her in a mental hospital at the tende ...more
Sep 01, 2010 Martha rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: lovers of the western lifestyle
I really enjoyed the style of this book--Barnes doesn't overuse her talent for analogies and is able to describe the feelings and perceptions of her characters wonderfully. She writes indirectly from the perspective of several different characters throughout the book, never revealing too many details as she takes us through their story. Their viewpoints overlap just enough to provide a complete picture of the rural area they live in, but their personal stories and perceptions vary so widely as t ...more
Jan 31, 2009 Andrea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah, I just loved this book. I'm always a sucker for tragic love stories. It really speaks to how right we attempt to make things and the enormity of just how wrong they can go. I was easily drawn into the story of this young couple who moves to a small town in Idaho trying to make a life, and a similarly young man who comes to experience this with them and quickly gets caught up in and becomes part of their tragedy. Loved it! Barnes is a great writer (a few parts, though, we're a bit - just a bi ...more
Jan 17, 2009 Nina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't really like writing this flowery and dramatic, with all the bugs, birds and plants described way over the top. But in spite of the somewhat pompous writing, I must say this is a good book. It had a beginning, a middle and an end which all made sense, even had some transformation of characters, which I always like. I started reading this before finishing the last book ("The Fiction Writer") and finished this one pretty quickly. I recommend it for its excellent story and character developm ...more
Suzanne Cooper
Aug 04, 2015 Suzanne Cooper rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Kim Barnes is a professor @ the U of I & set this story in Idaho. Helen marries a doctor & they envision a romantic life on a rundown farm, but Thomas loves the river, the land & the Notion more than he actually loves her. A hired hand, Manny, must try & salvage the farm; they know nothing about running it, or a marriage. And things change after a difficult birth. Manny's relationship with Helen, Thomas, & their daughter Elise (who he ends up raising.) I enjoyed the writing. ...more
Apr 13, 2009 Dawn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Didn't think I was going to like this book at first, but it grew on me. A bit Wallace-Stegner-ish in its style--well-developed characters, the importance of fly-fishing, lyrical writing. Update on 4/13/09--I've downgraded my rating overnight--the last half of the book was good, and would have been a good short story on its own. But the first half of the book suffered from undeveloped characters. I didn't find the main character (the doctor) or his wife compelling--in fact, I just wanted them to ...more
Feb 02, 2016 Julia rated it it was amazing
I saw Kim Barnes read when she was in the UK a couple of years ago and bought this book on the strength of that. Barnes's writing is gorgeous, loaded with beautiful and poetic imagery (but never flowery), her characterisation is really strong and her stories compelling. This is great literary writing with not a word out of place. I came to care about the characters even as they were failing in their various ways - I won't give away the plot - this book is too good. You should read it for yoursel ...more
Tjbrowne Browne
May 18, 2009 Tjbrowne Browne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kim Barnes has such lovely, poetic prose. She would have earned five stars except that she teaches at U of I. I read Kim's two memoirs, and loved them, but I hadn't realized until recently that she also has two fiction books out. "A Country Called Home" harkens back to her own child-hood, and I see herself and her family very much in her fictional characters.
I would definitely recommend this book!
Mar 09, 2009 Brenda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From the book:

"The train's whistle drifts downriver. Manny rests his head in his hands as it passes, his breath catching in the engine's wake. He wishes that his life made as much sense as the pistons powering the rockers that turned the wheels that pulled the load toward such sure destinations. He wishes he had held her for a moment longer, long enough to tell her all that she was, and, to him, everything."
Susan W. Waflart
Jan 21, 2010 Susan W. Waflart rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is from Kim Barnes at the University of Idaho who was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for another novel in 1997. At first I was depressed as I began reading it because there is alot that is depressing about the storyline and there are several tragedies throughout the book. I did, however, get sucked in by the characters. I really liked the way the author described them....she made me see the layers. This is one that might make a good book club selection.
CeCe Carson
Oct 29, 2009 CeCe Carson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I grabbed this book while in line at the library & I am so glad I did. The river that flows through the setting is a lovely metaphor for the story. The ending was perfect in its imperfection. It didn't really end. No tidy wrap up; no conclusion. To me, a good ending is key to a good book. Loss and Lack were main features & so heart-rending. I have a lingering feeling that I really do not understand Grief.
Jul 17, 2010 Shaindel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first heard Kim read from this novel at Whitman College a few years ago and just finished reading it yesterday. Wow. WOW. Beautifully constructed with a few major twists that are gorgeous. I hope to write something this beautiful some day.

The copy editor may have fallen asleep toward the end--a few left out words and the character Elise's name appeared as Elsie at least once. Frustrating moments in an otherwise fine book.
Connie Faull
I read this book for my book club. It was an o.k. read. It switched between 4 main characters. The story moved along pretty well. There was only one protagonist that I liked, Manny. The book was pretty well written, but the ending was a little ridiculous which kind of took away a little from the good writing throughout the majority of the book. I have a pet peeve for stories that make a woman (or a man) out to be so wonderful that 2 men (or women) just can't get on with their lives.
Jan 29, 2009 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't as impressed with this book as I thought I would be based on the reviews I read. It's about a young couple, Thomas and Helen, who impulsively move from Connecticut to a rural farm in Idaho. After their first child is born it seems like nothing is the same for any of them and when Helen mysteriously dies a few months later things go from bad to worse for Thomas. It's a pretty depressing book and no one seems to be happy for long, which is why I only gave it 2 stars.
Torn between 2 & 3 stars... I think I shall be generous today and give 3. You must be in a certain frame of mind to enjoy this story (more like 2 different stories in one book) I kept thinking that someone (that she eluded to dying) would pop back into the story later on... nope! THAT would have made a more interesting story, in my opinion. The author writes beautifully, but story fell flat for me... sorry!
Nov 05, 2008 Shauna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book was hard for me to start and to get in to, but once I started, I found I couldn't stop. Barnes does an excellent job describing the land and the curiosity combined with respect for privacy of Idaho. Deracotte is an extremely frustrating character, but he offsets the other characters nicely. The writing was fantastic and I'm glad I read the book.
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I was born in Lewiston, Idaho, in 1958, and one week later, I returned with my mother to our small line-shack on Orofino Creek, where my father worked as a gyppo logger. The majority of my childhood was spent with my younger brother, Greg, in the isolated settlements and cedar camps along the North Fork of Idaho’s Clearwater River. I was the first member of my family to attend college. I hold a BA ...more
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