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Shepherd: A Memoir

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  46 ratings  ·  20 reviews
Upon moving to Appalachian Ohio with their two small children, Richard Gilbert and his wife are thrilled to learn there still are places in America that haven’t been homogenized. But their excitement over the region’s beauty and quirky character turns to culture shock as they try to put down roots far from their busy professional jobs in town. They struggle to rebuild a fa ...more
Paperback, 323 pages
Published May 1st 2014 by Michigan State University Press
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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Apr 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Today is Earth Day 2014, and how appropriate to review this earthy book that I recommend for anyone who farms or wants to farm or eats food that comes from farms.

To be honest I'm 3/4 into this book, but I will have no problem finishing. I do not want the book to end, and I dread the ending because I already know Mr Gilbert and his family are going to leave the place they are rooting themselves into by loving it, listening to it, and raising a family and sheep there. Of course I'm lov
Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I love this book. Let me tell you why.

In order to rate 5-stars, a memoir must be or have:

1. Eloquent writing—demonstrating comprehensive understanding of the craft, as well as the art, of wordsmithing, but without overdoing it. In my young years I got a kick out of word-cleverness for its own sake, but in my middle age (after decades of reading an average of 2 books every week) form-without-substance no longer amuses me, and I find it embarrassing when the author puts on an immodest tone of “look at what/>In
Sarah Buchanan
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I am three generations removed, on both sides of my family, from relying on farming for income. The closest my parents came was during my dad's law school years, when our suburban backyard hosted a handful of bantam hens, two turkeys, and a zucchini patch.

Any romantic notions I may have had about farming have been dispelled, and not in a bad way, by Mr. Gilbert's memoir. Life on a working farm is unyielding, while constantly in flux. Mr. Gilbert renders, in careful detail, the land t
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it seemed to grab my interest on all levels. I seem to lean toward books about farming, animals, nature and down to earth subjects. Partly the reason I feel is that my mother was a farmer's daughter in Ohio during the depression era. In fact she was born and reared in the Ohio Appalachian hills near Cambridge. My father was from the Appalachian mountains in Kentucky whose father was a coal miner who also raised tobacco and their own food. I am a generation away ...more
Oct 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Richard Gilbert shares the experiences and learnings of he and his wife, Kathy, both Ohio University professors embarking upon starting a hobby farm, Lost Valley/Mossy Dell Farm in rural Ohio to raise Katahdin sheep. Gilbert's father attempted to be a cattleman in California which failed, and then he pursued growing plants and running a nursery. Gilbert often questions his genetic makeup and how he too pursues dreams that at times may be more than he is prepared to handle.
Gilbert shares his tri
John Wylie

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. For starters is the mastery of the braided story with shifts of scene and theme, gorgeous descriptions at every turn, and his ear for dialogue which is loving and respectful, but with vivid color and full of gentle humor.

But at the center all of it is Gilbert's extraordinary voice as a writer. There is no persona here; this book is the story about a real person who authentically i
Darrelyn Saloom
Jun 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Meet Richard Gilbert: As a boy, reading Dad’s old farm books, I couldn’t tell sheep breeds apart; in photographs they’d all look the same: white and wooly, a poor fantasy livestock. The real ones lived far from our Space Coast boomtown.

Gilbert’s wife in the opening sentence: Kathy had found the farm yesterday, in the gentle snowfall of our first Appalachian winter.

His son Tom: He laughed helplessly, his cheeks red, thrilled to his core by her latest escapade.

Gina McKnight
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Migrating to rural Appalachia from Florida, author Richard Gilbert shares his dreams, perils, and joys while raising sheep. Gilbert tells the story of how he and his wife purchased a seventeen-acre farmstead in the rolling hills of southeastern Ohio. Relishing the beauty of the landscape, his descriptive narrative is spot-on. His realization of Appalachia’s poverty and isolation is on target, too. Shepherd is about Gilbert’s interaction with sometimes quirky neighbors and sometimes quirky sheep… ...more
Aug 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have read many books that are somewhat similar, about people who want to farm, then get to farm, and then subsequently learn how hard farming really is. I appreciated how honest he was about the process, what motivated him, his struggle to learn to live in the context of an Appalachian community. His story was heartening, as were his conclusions and lessons learned about himself, his family and life in general. Thanks Richard Gilbert for writing this book!
Elizabeth Westmark
Richard Gilbert's memoir, Shepherd, was hard for me to read in places because it uncovered some bruised spots in my own life I thought were totally healed. This is what makes Richard Gilbert's book worth reading, and why I won't just forget it and go on to the next.

I love rivers. This memoir made me feel like I was traversing the river of a man's life. I visualize his parents, especially his father, as one shore, and his children as the other. The grown Richard is tough on the dreamy
Nov 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites-2015
What I like so much about this story is the honesty. This no rapturous tale of back-to-the land/farm romanticism. If anything Gilbert borders on the morose in sharing his transition, but he's open about that as well. Reading Shepherd is like accompanying a good friend on a journey of discovery. A bonus for me was familiarity with the setting and shared understanding of some of the challenges D@mn multiflora rose!!!
Chad Waite
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really special book. No wonder that it was highly recommended by Gene Logsdon!
Nov 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put it down, and I am not a farmer or shepherd and I had no previous interest in either topic. I picked it up at the library on a whim. Talk about an excellent surprise!
Dawn Meyers
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this memoir of a man with no real farming background attempting to establish a sheep farm. It was an interesting read.
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Richard Gilbert's book provides some penetrating insights to agrarian Appalachian life in general and sheep farming in particular. But more than anything else, Shepherd: A Memoir demonstrates the power a dream has to motivate an individual. Gilbert's dream of becoming a farmer takes root during his boyhood when he lives on a farm near Leesburg, Georgia. After his father moves the family to Florida, Gilbert realizes how much he misses his Leesburg homestead. "My sense of having been torn from tha ...more
Jan 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Stumbled upon this book while browsing the library shelves. Almost returned it without reading. Glad I did not do so.

I grew up in then-still-rural NE Ohio. Relatives were farmers. Grew up baling hay and growing pine trees, owning a horse and pony. I get the allure of small towns and farming. My sister is an OU grad, and the book is set in the general area of Athens. It did take me a while to get into the story, but again, glad I kept reading.

Gilbert has a way with words,
Jan 21, 2015 rated it liked it
I’m glad I read this book. The author tells the story of moving from Bloomington, Indiana to Athens, Ohio - following his wife to her new job at Ohio University. He writes mainly about the work of farming that he took up. His wife sounds like a saint! He had a job at the OU Press and he ran a farm (seemingly full time) and he had a hand in raising their two children. It’s hard to imagine he had the time to do the writing he’s done here. It reads like an almost daily chronicle, as well as a medit ...more
Brendan O'Meara
Mar 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A great book about Gilbert’s farming life and how it tested his limits, his ambitions, and his role as a son and father. Beautifully written, funny, sad, and uplifting, Shepherd hits all the notes that make for a great reading experience.
Oct 24, 2014 is currently reading it
I received this book for free through First reads on Goodreads in exchange for an honest review. I just received the book, so I haven't had a chance to start reading it. The story sounds interesting...
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Richard Gilbert is the author of SHEPHERD: A MEMOIR. His essays have appeared in Brevity, Chautauqua, Fourth Genre, Orion, River Teeth, and other publications.

He teaches writing at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio.