County, Washington, is home to farmlands on the Columbia Plateau that
produce more crops than might be expected of its semiarid soils. But
while quite unique in its geography and history, it also faces many of
the problems confronting farmers throughout rural America.
Having spent time in Adams County as a young harvest hand, seasoned
journalist Steve Turner returned to the region to portray farm life and
history in a land where change is a subtle but powerful constant. Amber
Waves and Undertow interweaves family narratives, historical episodes,
and Turner's own experiences to illuminate the transformation of rural
America from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century.
distilling the lore of wheat and potato agriculture or describing
action at a combine demolition derby, Turner celebrates both the usual
and the unusual among the local residents. He blends stories of pioneer
settlers with vignettes of present-day life, introducing readers to the
characters -- the hardworking and the eccentric, the old-timers and the
Latino newcomers -- who populate this corner of America.
mode of John McPhee and Wendell Berry, Turner's lyrical prose conveys
his affection for both the land and its inhabitants. Amber Waves and
Undertow is a thoughtful depiction of an exceptional place that puts
the difficulties of individual farmers in national and global contexts,
showing us that only by understanding the past of rural America can we
confront its future challenges.
Amber Waves and
Peril, Hope, Sweat, and Downright Nonchalance in Dry Wheat Country
by Steve Turner
University of Oklahoma Press,