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on May 02, 2012 :
I mostly read philosophy. I read Kant's metaphysics especially, which I consider to be the absolute height of things, but I also read serious fiction. I read Hemingway again this year, for example. I read "A Farewell to Arms." I am acquainted with Max, the author of the book in question, through tennis. I am a tournament player and Max was a USTA referee at a lot of the tournaments I played in. Anyhow I learned of Max's novel through the tennis scene and I read it, and, I must say, I am amazed by the quality of the literature. It compares favorably with the good stuff, i.e., classical literature, with which to some measure I am acquainted. This book is solid material, in my opinion; it does what for me novels are supposed to do, which is to provide an insightful picture of an historically significant people. In this case the people involved are the middle class of Americans that primarily made up the country until a few years ago. This book provides a good accurate picture of this historical people in terms of the motivations of their actions, or the workings of the soul. Personally speaking, I have found the time spent reading this book to be very rewarding.
(reviewed 4 days after purchase)
on April 12, 2012 :
The Hayfield reads often as a streaming monologue from the mind of the Main Character. Focused intently on creating an ideal life for his family, he is often blind to the reality of the hear and now, and he pays dearly for it.
Set in North Central California, the author does a great job of putting the reader into the setting. For anyone that has ever experienced Oroville, CA during the summer, hot and flat are usually what come to mind. Fortunately, the author is able to completely transport the reader their with an increadibly detailed description of not just how it looks, but what it feels like to be there.
The Hayfield can catch you off guard, as Frank sometimes stumbles into situations and makes decisions that are completely unexpected, but luckily is able to redeem himself.
I look forward to reading more of his work soon.
(reviewed 6 months after purchase)
on Jan. 16, 2012 :
"The Hayfield" is a well-crafted and compelling first novel by Max Gordon. Gordon’s mastery of the first person, present tense makes the story flow easily, as if you were sitting across the kitchen table from him, sharing a beer or a Bushmills, and listening to the story unfold. Story telling in the present tense is tricky, but Gordon does it naturally.
One of his strong points is his very credible dialogs that take the reader into the characters and their lives. Another forte is his ability to elicit a sense of the land and things that grow.
Reading "The Hayfield," we experience through Frank’s eyes the slow evolution of his family from the apparent shared joy of striking out into a new and very different life style to the brink of its destruction. Frank works hard as a hay broker to keep his struggling family afloat, but he also does a few stupid things along the way. A strong family can survive limited stupidity. But we learn that this is not a strong family. It has a weak link that we don’t fully appreciate until late in the tale.
Like all good novels, "The Hayfield" is about people and change. But change is not always for the better.
(reviewed the day of purchase)
on Jan. 10, 2012 :
Every generation, it seems, has its back to the land movement wherein young couples eschew the bustle of the city for a simpler, rural self-sufficiency. This was particularly true in California in the sixties, I think, and this is the setting for Max Gordon’s debut novel, The Hayfield. Frank and Barbara, their son Billy, and one more on the way let go of their busy life in San Jose and buy a house with land enough to grow hay in Northern California. Although Frank left a steady job as a truck mechanic, he is no neophyte to the ways of the country. In fact, he takes to the tasks confronting him in setting up his new home readily, seeming born to it. That doesn’t prevent things from going horribly wrong, however, and they do so immediately.
While running through the new house on move-in day, Billy knocks his mother down, which turns out to be the precipitant in the deterioration of the marriage. The details of living a rural life are described artfully, and shows Frank’s command of his environment. Contrast that with his complete lack of understanding about what is going on with those he loves, and you have the basis for a fine relationship story.
The novel is focused through the lens of the environment, revealing Frank and Barbara’s relationship as they attempt to meet the demands their chosen life places on them. The mundane, but graphic details of things like dressing a rabbit, and building a fence are much more than they appear. A particularly fine passage about their confrontation with a pack of wild dogs strips away the last of the pretenses about who they are, and further erodes the marriage.
Frank becomes a hay broker to make ends meet, and his time on the road and association with the rural denizens, and the details of their daily lives, give life and breath to the story. It is a fine read.
(reviewed 74 days after purchase)
on Dec. 07, 2011 :
The Hayfield is a compelling story... once I started reading it I had a hard time putting it down. The characters, for the most part, were well fleshed out. Most of the time they were sympathetic. The story starts with promise of a "nice", happy family, however trouble soon comes into their lives. I found myself rooting for them, hoping they could resolve their problems but somehow they just seemed to get worse. The final resolution was believable, and I was left feeling that things for Frank, the main character, would get better... Well written and worth the time to read. I will look forward to reading more stories from Max.
(reviewed 36 days after purchase)
on Nov. 05, 2011 :
Max Gordons short stories have always held my attention, The Hayfield keeps me there. Varying aspects of the characters lets me think about how they will react to different situations. Sometimes I guess wrong, most of the time they ring true to their core. I see a little bit of James Lee Burke, a wee bit of Jack London and a touch of Steinbeck in his character development and details of the surroundings and action. I found that things skipped around a little bit to much at times but I intend to reread this book again and look for more books from Gordon.
(reviewed 22 days after purchase)