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The Excellent Lombards
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"This is the book Jane Hamilton was born to write… [it is] magnificent." —Ann Patchett, New York Times bestselling author of Commonwealth
Mary Frances "Frankie" Lombard is fiercely in love with her family's sprawling apple orchard and the tangled web of family members who inhabit it. Content to spend her days planning capers with her brother William, competing with her brainy cousin Amanda, and expertly tending the orchard with her father, Frankie desires nothing more than for the rhythm of life to continue undisturbed. But she cannot help being haunted by the historical fact that some family members end up staying on the farm and others must leave. Change is inevitable, and threats of urbanization, disinheritance, and college applications shake the foundation of Frankie's roots. As Frankie is forced to shed her childhood fantasies and face the possibility of losing the idyllic future she had envisioned for her family, she must decide whether loving something means clinging tightly or letting go.
"Everything you could ask for in a coming-of-age novel– funny, insightful, observant, saturated with hope and melancholy." —Tom Perotta, author ofLittle Childrenand The Leftovers
"Tender, eccentric, wickedly funny and sage…gives full voice to Jane Hamilton's storytelling gifts." – Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank and Under the Wide and Starry Sky
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . as we grill the salmon
we spiked with juniper berries the other one thinks
the plural pronoun is a dangerous fiction the source
of so much unexpected loneliness
—from “Bear” by Ellen Bryant Voigt
This Story Always Starts Here
We were making hay. Everyone who was there still remembers it, how the sky was its usual high immense self, and as we went along a wash of clouds moved in, the ceiling suddenly quite low. There was the usual sweet smell of hay drying, the swallows swooping and scolding, and the oil and dust of the baler, a bitter black fragrance. It had been windy and hot when we started but the heat stilled, dirty and wet; or that was us at least, chaff stuck in our mouths, chaff in our bloodshot eyes, chaff like sequins on our clothes, our flesh. My father wore what were originally his dark-blue coveralls, the material over his back bleached by the sun to a pinkish white, the fabric drenched and glued to his skin. He didn’t wear an undershirt on hot days, so you could see his thick chest hair—which always surprised me—that wet black fur. He had a wild foamy look, a person not to interrupt, no saying a word or crossing his path. My brother, William, was there, and our very distant cousin Philip, and the Bershek twins from down the road, and our hired hand Gloria, and me, and Aunt May Hill, we called her, across the wide field on the Allis-Chalmers, the baler spitting out the old-fashioned square bales.
Aunt May Hill was not a typical lady, May Hill our prize because she could fix any broken thing. She was sixty or seventy—we weren’t sure. In the olden days they’d apparently called her a misfit but that wasn’t quite right. My mother sometimes laughed a May Hill story away, saying she was certifiable, mildly certifiable, she’d say, aiming for accuracy. Eccentric, is all, my father corrected. We naturally assumed Witch. Whatever she was she’d been working on the baler for three days, trying to get the twines to make their knots, trying to remind the mechanism of its own intelligence. It seemed to work most consistently when, at my father’s suggestion, one of us walked alongside it, just being there, not touching it, the baler in need of assurance or companionship or maybe it loved an audience. As much as we were generally afraid of May Hill we were grateful for her tenderness with that rattletrap.
“You guys can’t upgrade or anything?” one of the Bershek twins asked, pulling down on his lid to get a bug out of his eye. “For the millennium, how about. Your great-uncle, or whatever, got the baler used in, like, 1955? That what your dad said?”
The twins were in high school and they’d bound around the field, leaping, skipping, doing barbell stunts with the bales—such goofs—as if they’d never get tired, as if the heat couldn’t ever drop them flat. We, William and I, eleven and twelve years old, we knew better, knew enough to walk between the bales, no jetés, no handsprings for the Lombard children. We knew to conserve our strength. When we were small we’d had matching striped coveralls, sunglasses and leather gloves and boxy orange work boots, no one more serious or poised to make hay. We would have been enraged if anyone had called us cute. Even now we were still not quite ourselves in our tattered chambray shirts, the heavy jeans, the worn gloves, our caps tight on our heads, our clothes a costume plucked from our future, when we’d run the farm.
William didn’t answer the twins and I didn’t, either. We were not going to get a pop-up bailer, no, never have enormous round bales that only a machine could pick up. There was no point talking about the nobility of the labor, the ancient gathering up of the field, no use explaining it if you didn’t get it at this late date.
Earlier in the day there’d been talk on the weather discussion board about the building of the system, the possibility of thunderstorms, 40 percent chance. My father had meant the baling to start earlier but there’d been the usual conversation, the long silences with Aunt May Hill, Aunt May Hill always reluctant to commit, worried that there was too much moisture in the mix, she the one who knew about danger. Nothing to do then but wait, kicking around until she agreed to start the work, until in her estimation the hay was near enough to dry perfection. But we had knowledge, too, we did, bending the stems, sniffing, the goods leafy and sweet, a vintage the sheep would be pleased to eat.
Finally, she took her place on the Allis, and soon after we fanned out, throwing the bales on the wagon, a rickety thing with no sides. My father always constructed the load, ninety bales that he stacked long ways and crossways, five tiers, the structure holding through the woods on the jolting trips to the barn, all of us riding on top, admiring the view. And ducking, to keep from getting clocked by the limbs hanging over the rutted path. There would be three to four loads, my father thought, maybe more. If Sherwood showed up, my father’s partner, if he came we’d be done sooner.
It got hazy in the middle of the fourth load, the low sky a dull white and then suddenly—it was like that—all at once, out of the west, a wind, a black bank coming at us, the seams of lightning doing their zigzag, a quick count, one and two and three, the boom, the crack so close.
“Papa!” William cried. “We’re not going to make it.” William, who never called my father Papa anymore, was trotting alongside the wagon, gripping the edge, as if he meant to stop the whole contraption. There were thirty or so bales left in the field, another fifteen minutes to pick them up. My father was knocking one hard into place on the fourth tier with his knee, standing high, standing steady.
He didn’t even turn to look at the roiling sky, pure wrath above, my father, who was a cautious person under most circumstances. We heard him say, “We’ll be all right.”
“We won’t! It’s almost here, it’s— Pa! Look!”
A bale tumbled up at my father, and another, the Bershek twins on a roll, forever on a roll, my father grabbing the first by the twines, jamming it into a slot in the stack, Gloria on the wagon, too, thrusting the second up to him. Our cousin Philip had been driving, our cousin a native of Seattle, a city dweller. He jumped off the tractor and tore ahead of the wagon, hauling the bales that were far flung into stacks, consolidating them near our path. We wouldn’t take notice of his usefulness, we would not, because in our opinion he couldn’t have any real knowledge about weather.
“Doesn’t Papa see it’s going to hit?” William shouted at me. “Frankie! Doesn’t he see?”
“I know it!” I, too, kept moving.
One of the twins called in my direction, “Good times, Mary Frances, good times.”
Our father, the living skeleton, Exhibit A, underneath the coveralls nothing but hanging bones, and on display all the teeth, the hard grin signifying great effort, our father going at it as if he were still a teenager himself and not in his fifties; and yet of course he wasn’t crazed and of course he would not ever put a single person—except himself—in any kind of jeopardy. But my brother yelled again, a frayed, tearful sound—“Come down, Papa! Let’s get out of here.”
The Bershek boys weren’t stopping, my father wasn’t telling them to, my father taking the bales ever higher as if another crack hadn’t gone right over our heads, as if there really was sin, each worker supposed to wait in the open air for his punishment. Aunt May Hill in her floppy straw hat and sunglasses, Aunt May Hill almost glamorous if you didn’t know how plain she was, had already driven the baler back to the barn and was safe. William moved faster, keeping on without meaning to, almost without knowing he was still working. In his head, I think, he’d made for home.
At dinner it was a story of triumph for my mother, the first drop, a drop so ripe, so heavy, that drop falling in the instant the wagon was unloaded, William in that second handing off the last bale into the barn. It was then that Sherwood, my father’s cousin, turned up, arriving to help just when we were finished, a talent of his. We had to tell my mother that funny part of the story, Sherwood and his legendary timing. All together we had stood in the wide open door of the barn laughing at the force of the downpour, the rain soon hard as bullets, ricocheting off the metal feeders. In the field the bales had flown up into my father’s hands, all of us moving as if in black light; time sped up for us even as the storm was outside of time. At the table my brother said very little. He couldn’t be glad for the miracle, not entirely, a bitterness in his own self, for his doubt.
You know you believe it, I beamed to him across the platter of corn. You know you believe the one pure thing! William couldn’t say the words out loud, didn’t want to sound insincere or childish. But that night of the hay baling he was reminded of the truth. He knew what we’d always known, that our father could outwit a storm. It was so. It had happened. He knew there was no point, not in anything, if our father wasn’t on hand, quieting the wind; and no point, either, if we weren’t there to see it.
Two Terrible Discussions
Our greatest fear must have been with us always because even before we went to school we did play at holding to our own fortress. We imagined war with the other family on the orchard. We considered it a siege more than a war, the standoff with our relatives, with our cousins who in ordinary life were our friends. It wasn’t until we were seven and eight, though, that we were first frightened in real terms about the farm, both of us just beginning to suspect that the future, that empty wide forever, might contract, it might narrow and start to spin, it might touch down, sweeping us into itself.
We were on our way to Minnesota to visit our forgetful, wandering grandmother when we got the inkling. It was rare that we took a vacation all together, and more than anything we were excited about the seven-hour drive. The backseat of the van had been made up like a pasha’s tent, beautifully draped and soft with our blankets and pillows, a box of tapes in alphabetical order, books on a makeshift shelf, magnetic games, a full tub of markers and new pads of paper, enough supplies to entertain us to the West Coast if for some reason that became our destination. Even though it was winter we got in the car an hour before departure to anticipate the pleasure of the trip, wrapped up and sitting mindfully in the tidy splendor. William had his red toolbox, something he couldn’t travel without, construction always in progress of a mixed-race quadruped, part Lego, part Capsela, a few mutant Erector Set parts for the personality who might someday speak to us, gestures and all. We were only slightly ahead of the age of handheld electronics for every boy and girl, and yet how impossibly old-fashioned we sound already. The thermos of hot chocolate, that timeless delight, and the basket of apples and cookies and nuts were by our side.
We liked the setup so much William said, “Let’s pretend this is our house, Frankie. This is where we really live.”
I loved that idea.
For most of our lives we’d been mistaken for twins. I was as tall as William, and we both had light-brown hair, his softly sprouted and growing in a swirl as if from a single originating point at his crown. Mine was cut in a pageboy, thin and blunt. Looking at William, I always knew I was not ugly. We seemed for a time to have the same plain standard-issue child noses, his turning up slightly. Whereas I dreamed we were twins, Siamese even, conjoined in utero, attached at an easy juncture, the little finger shared, or just a sliver of the hip—whereas I often believed this had to be so—it would never have occurred to my brother to consider altering the details of our birth.
At first as we drove west to the Twin Cities we were happy. My mother up front did her imitations of her patrons at the library, where she worked, and my father opened his mouth as if he were having a dental exam and howled. No one made him laugh as hard as my mother. She’d say the amusing line and then sit back to watch him at the enterprise of enjoying her little story. She had a black heart, she once said to him, the result of smoking, had she ever smoked? Could she have been so stupid and so terrible? And yet that shriveled charred heart somehow beating was a feature my father found funny, and therefore we must try not to worry.
For a while we sang along to one of the folksingers on our tape, songs about baby whales and delightful banana pickers and abandoned ducklings, songs we were getting too old for but nonetheless they were our favorites. We weren’t self-conscious about singing, not quite yet, unable to help ourselves, belting out the quack quacks and the Day-os. Daylight come and me wan’ go home. Somehow William was able to sing and at the same time even in travel draw on paper tacked to a board across his lap, the artist making boy-type inky castles, tight lines, extreme architectural detail, the dungeons equipped with outlets and computer stations.
Halfway across the state my mother took the wheel and soon after we both must have fallen asleep.
“What are you saying?” She was speaking quietly to my father but urgently, the blast of her t, the incredulity in the word what the sound that woke us. We didn’t move, both of us lodged against our windows, a little damp, a little drooly.
“I want him to be able to carry on the business, Nellie,” my father said. “To make it as easy as possible for him to keep going. You’d want him to do the same for me.”
“Carry on the business,” my mother said, leaning forward, her face practically to the dashboard. “As easy as possible for him,” she repeated.
“You’d better pull over.”
“I’m not going to crash the car.”
My father said, with deep apology in his voice, “I shouldn’t have brought it up. We need a will, that goes without saying. I’m thinking out loud—”
“I just want to get it straight, your plan.”
“It isn’t a plan—”
“Your thought is to will the property and the business—every one of your assets—to Sherwood. To make it easy for him. The property that includes the house we live in.”
My father looked out the window, which we understood to mean he did not wish to continue talking, something my mother didn’t seem to know.
“It would be nice, Jim, it would be considerate, in the event of your death, to be able to remain in the house.” She said that sentence so distinctly, and sweetly, too, it seemed.
“Just so I have it straight, is all. So I can prepare. You’re giving the whole of everything to Sherwood—and Dolly, let’s not leave Dolly out of the discussion. Imagine leaving Dolly out.” She had to pause, stunned at such an omission. “If you’re going to give the place up to them, I should probably start putting my spare change in a jar. So I have enough to care for our children, food, shelter, clothing, that kind of thing. A dime or two for college. In the event of your death,” she added, her tone even more agreeable.
Our father dying? William’s eyes were narrowed in concentration. Our parents were having a joke, I thought, or maybe playing a car game. My father dying and his business partner and cousin, Sherwood, owning every acre, this funny, hard game something like My Grandmother’s Suitcase or I Spy. As for college, that also was ridiculous. William and I were never going away.
“Aunt Florence and Uncle Jim passed down the farm to you and Sherwood and May Hill.” My mother reviewing ancient history.
“Yes, Nellie, all right, let’s not go into a tailspin. Let’s let the funnel cloud settle elsewhere.”
“And so maybe you feel obligated to honor that history. Maybe,” my mother mused, “Sherwood will build me a house out of the scrap metal in the sheep yard. Imagine the house that Sherwood could make! No, no, this will be fun.”
We could tell she didn’t mean real fun in this game of theirs. Sherwood famously invented all kinds of never-before-heard-of contraptions, and he tried to build regular tools and machines, too. It was unlikely—we knew this—that he could successfully erect a whole house.
“Our palace,” she was saying, “oh, Jim! It will have a laundry chute, like a marble run, underwear, socks, washcloths skating down tubes through all the lopsided, slanting rooms, kicking off bells and whistles before they land in the washing machine. How great is that?” She turned to my father, looking at him for longer than seemed a safe driving practice. “The floors,” she went on, “will be made of arable soil, you mow it instead of mopping. Plus, we can grow radishes under the table.” Another hard look at him. “And play golf.”
“Nellie,” he said wearily. “Get off at the next exit, will you please?”
“I do understand that for you the farm is the most important feature of the world,” she said quietly, and almost sadly. “I do know that. I’m not going to dwell on the money I put into the operation—gladly, I put the nest egg in gladly.”
What money? We were always puzzled about money, whose was what, and why my father’s jaw went taut when the subject came up. He turned around to see if we were still sleeping, our eyes snapping shut. “You do dwell on it.” His voice was in the back of his throat, my father rumbling, a rare occasion. “You are dwelling. You dwellth.”
“I dwellth not! I’m only thinking of the will, and how maybe you could, in that document, jog Sherwood’s memory, for the final tally, this teacup, that teacup.”
“He remembers,” my father said. “Of course he does. He’s grateful.”
“Of course he does! My God, Jim.”
They were blissfully quiet for a while but then my mother had to start it up again. “Anyway, the normal course of action, if you weren’t going to make a sanctimonious gesture to your cousin—wouldn’t it be to give your share into my custodial care until William and Francie could have a crack at it? Assuming they want to inherit the bounty of the ages. And carry on the…cult.”
We recalled what she’d said about the farm. It was true that our orchard was the most important feature of the world.
“Assuming,” she went on, “that the Queen and her right-of-way, and her other well-placed acres, doesn’t ruin everyone.” My mother called Aunt May Hill the Queen, a name that did not suit her.
“Would you stop talking? Please, Nellie.”
Yes, yes, we were absolutely on his side—he should give her an apple to fill her mouth, a gentle stuffing.
“I think what you’re saying, Jim, is that if I had ownership I’d screw Sherwood over. Which, okay, I admit, is sometimes an appealing thought.”
My father was again gazing out the window, as if fields under snow was a landscape that had variation of untold interest.
“You actually,” she said, “you actually don’t trust me.” She said this as if she’d been stricken by awe.
“That is absurd,” he cried. “And you know it.” Jim Lombard went ahead and at that very particular moment made a remark that was out of place in the timetable of the fight. He said, “There’s a rest stop in two—”
When she lurched back against the seat, preparing to be shrill, I finally yelled, “What are you talking about?”
William took up the call, sticking his head between their high-backed seats, as tall as thrones. “You shouldn’t argue.”
“We’re not,” my mother spit, “arguing.”
“It sounds like it,” William pointed out.
My father, who was always truthful, said, “We are arguing.”
“Here’s what I want, Jim.” My mother, for her part, did not like to leave a task unfinished. “I want Sherwood, when you’re gone, to implement every single one of his lunatic ideas. May Hill will have to wrastle him to the ground, think of that! When the whole operation is in complete disarray William and Francie will step in and save them. That,” she snapped, “is my dream.”
We were not only further bewildered by their discussion but, more critically, unsure now about whose side we were on. My father’s for agreeing with us about their arguing or my mother’s for foretelling our marvelous future? I wanted to cry because of their game and also because the conversation reminded me of a secret I had, a sliver of talk I’d once overheard, something awful my mother had said to Gloria, the hired hand. It was a snippet I couldn’t even repeat to William. They’d been in the kitchen maybe a year or two before when Gloria asked my mother if she thought William and I would stay on the farm when we were grown, if we’d want to take it over. My mother said, “Oh, who knows! Don’t you think William’s too dreamy and too interested in other things to be a farmer? And Francie”—she burst out laughing—“is too full of spleen.”
Spleen? What was that? Why was it funny? For the life of me I could not find out what spleen meant; I couldn’t understand the largest component of my character. I couldn’t ask William because what if it was a hideous stain or germ, amusing to an observer, that was soon going to overtake my hands, my legs, my face? The spleen was going to keep me from being a farmer and when I remembered that fact I was very sorry for myself, a sad glum girl.
In the car my father said, “We’re going to get out and stretch.” In order to ensure that his wife take the exit ramp he added that he himself had to use the bathroom.
“Take the ramp or not take the ramp?” my mother considered. “Make you hold it all the way to Minneapolis? Oh, Jim, let me think about this.”
They both then did something we couldn’t stand. They both unaccountably started to laugh. “You’ll be the death of me,” he said to her.
“And then I’ll be stuck with that asinine will. Jesus Christ.”
They laughed again.
“If you croak,” she said, “if you leave me with Sherwood and Dolly and May Hill, I’ll hunt you down.”
We could hardly move, William and I, in the parking area. My father giving the farm to Sherwood? My mother hunting him down—what did that mean? My father dying—no! He wasn’t really going to do that, but the rest of us without a house? Sherwood building a metal home with a marble run? “I don’t have to go,” I said. Their sudden laughter, the way their argument seemed to end, was possibly the most confounding thing of all.
“Yes, you do,” my mother said.
William squeezed his eyes shut for her, he bore down, as if he were trying to summon urine for her pleasure. “I’m fine,” he concluded.
When my parents gave up on us and went off to the visitor center on their own I started to cry. We were left, we were left, we were left now and we were going to be left later, left without the orchard. William looked out the window to the cold travelers walking their dogs in the dirty snow. He was crying, too, the Lombard children as good as orphans, might as well start now, brother and sister, hand in hand, abandoned on the highway, an apple each, a favorite book, a few Jolly Ranchers, green only, a song to sing for company, nothing, nothing else, no place to roam but everywhere.
The orchard, the family affair, was a compound with three houses, three barns, four hundred acres of forest and arable fields and marsh, the sheep pastures, and the apple trees. The woods were wild and dense, no hiker’s path of shavings, no sign at the start announcing points of interest, the lady’s slippers hidden in the broad ginger leaves, the morels—we weren’t going to tell anyone where they were. There was no warning about future dangers, such as the cougar maybe making a comeback in our state. By the far west fence there was an Indian burial mound that we took for the shape of an owl, and in a thicket nearby the remains of a settler’s cabin. Once, digging around, we found a tin cup, dented and packed with dirt. William picked it up, he sniffed it, sniffed the rim, where lips would have touched. I asked should we take it with us? He held it in both hands, looking off into the distance, seeing, I guessed, the fairy-tale children of long ago. An ogre of course and a father with an ax. Without deciding exactly we buried the cup as if it were a little pet we’d cared for.
- "Tender, astute...[Frankie is] expertly rendered...an inquisitive, imperious but loveable girl akin to Harper Lee's Jean Louise Finch."—New York Times Book Review
- "Tender and rueful...Richly characterized, beautifully written, and heartbreakingly poignant-another winner from this talented and popular author."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
- "This is the book Jane Hamilton was born to write, and it is a book that thrilled me to read. THE EXCELLENT LOMBARDS is, in fact, magnificent."—Ann Patchett, New York Times bestselling author of State of Wonder
- "Hamilton's lushly pleasurable novel of radiant comedy, deep emotions, and resonant realizations considers the wonders of nature, the boon and burden of inheritance, and the blossoming of the self."—Booklist (starred review)
- "A book with so much grace, wit, and resonance -- this is one you'll read and reread. I surely did. I laughed, I cried, I pondered, I mourned. I took these characters deeply into my heart. Hamilton at her amazing best. A timeless classic, in its first appearance."—Karen Joy Fowler, bestselling author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and winner of the 2014 PEN / Faulkner Award
- "Ms. Hamilton has written what's known as a 'quiet' novel, yet this beautiful coming-of-age story offers a more trenchant narrative."—New York Times
- "Peopled with vivid characters...Hamilton gets it, all of it, about life and love and growing up when you just don't want to. She writes with compassion and warmth about how we see our family compared with how they really are, and who we can become when we finally cut the cord and fly free--like it or damn well not."—The Globe and the Mail
- "This coming-of-age story is captivating and passionate, taking us back to being a child and believing in one thing wholeheartedly. Simply put, this is a book you won't be able to put down."—BookPage
- "Jane Hamilton spins this coming-of-age tale with the same sort of poignancy that earned her previous six novels high praise."—Entertainment Weekly, "10 Books You Have to Read in April"
- "Hamilton's lovely coming-of-age tale is a tender portrayal of complex, believable people facing up to change."—People
- "THE EXCELLENT LOMBARDSis everything you could ask for in a coming-of-age novel--funny, insightful, observant, saturated with hope and melancholy. Jane Hamilton's novel about a young girl's life on an apple orchard is full of oddball characters and tender scenes that will linger in your memory."—Tom Perrotta, author of Little Children and The Leftovers
- "What a beautiful book. Its style is a wonder of accuracy--one enters its world in the fullest possible way. At the center is a girl whose fate is linked to the fate of her family's struggling farm, a place whose rhythms and details are miraculously evoked. Jane Hamilton, whose work I have long admired, has brought us again to the juncture of innocence and chance."—Joan Silber, author or Fools, Ideas of Heaven, and The Size of the World
- "In THE EXCELLENT LOMBARDS, Jane Hamilton returns to her deep love of farm and land that is quickly becoming a thing of the past. As seen through the eyes of young Mary Frances "Frankie" Lombard, whose idyllic life on the family apple farm begins to fray, it is at once a poignant coming of age story, and a profound look at the complexities of family, love, and loss in the ever changing cycle of life. It is Hamilton's masterful touch that brings it all together, that immerses us into a world as if it were our own. I loved being back in her warm embrace."—Gail Tsukiyama, author of The Samurai's Garden and A Hundred Flowers
- "A powerful coming-of-age story...Her penetration into the hearts of her characters is as profound, perhaps more so, than ever before...This is a very fine novel: Its people, their individual predicaments and their relationships with one another and with the land stay with the reader long after that last page has been turned."—Minneapolis Star Tribune
- "Tender, eccentric, wickedly funny and sage--THE EXCELLENT LOMBARDS gives full voice to Jane Hamilton's storytelling gifts. Frankie's tale of growing up on the family apple farm is a love letter to a threatened way of life and proof, once again, of Hamilton's extraordinary talent for dramatizing ordinary lives with nuance and compassion. I loved spending time in Frankie's world."—Nancy Horan, author of Loving Frank and Under the Wide and Starry Sky
- "In THE EXCELLENT LOMBARDS the wonderfully gifted Jane Hamilton explores the lives of a family bound together and driven apart by land, money and inheritance. How intimately Hamilton understands her heroine's devotion to the apple orchard and how brilliantly she evokes the wages of time."—Margot Livesey, author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy
- "Each character in this family has a story and a history to reveal. The parts play together like those of a great symphonic revolution, with the same sonic and emotional bombast you would find on a good night at Carnegie Hall....a beautiful book filled with flowing prose that will make Frankie and her family one of your favorite literary go-tos all summer long--and well after that, too."—BookReporter
- "Funny and heartbreaking, colored with a palpable wistfulness...deeply affecting, a moving elegy for an idyllic way of life that's slipping away as development and technology encroach and children grow up and away from rural pleasures."—Miami Herald
- "Exudes humor and compassion."—The Toronto Star
- "THE EXCELLENT LOMBARDS accomplishes the neat trick of perfectly echoing its subject matter. Like life on the Lombards' Wisconsin orchard, Hamilton's prose is languid, beautiful and roiling with buried dramas."—St. Louis Post-Dispatch
- "Both a lively coming-of-age story and a deeply felt portrait of an endangered species, the American farm family."—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
- "There is a well-crafted tenderness in Jane Hamilton's THE EXCELLENT LOMBARDS that teases out the drama in ordinary life and quietly lulls the reader...Frankie's love of the farm is beautifully drawn in Jane Hamilton's perfect details, creating a sense of place so strong, at times the orchard seems to transcend setting to become another character in the novel...a poignant and sometimes witty coming of age story."—New York Journal of Books
- "Jane Hamilton can do anything, really...this timeworn plot still has vibrant life...It's all fresh and all strong because it's all Hamilton."—Literary Hub, "18 Books You Should Read This April"
- "Jane Hamilton writes movingly of a young girl's changing views of her life and ambitions."—Manhattan Book Review
- "Hamilton has always been a master storyteller, and THE EXCELLENT LOMBARDS is a story masterfully told. She doesn't give too much away at once, developing characters and places through well-chosen details, linking the past with the present smoothly, and keeping the story moving in such a way that readers may not realize how much they've learned - and how much they care about these people - until several dozen pages have gone by."—The Wichita Eagle
- "A poignant coming-of-age tale that resonates with readers...beautiful."—Romantic Times
- On Sale
- Apr 4, 2017
- Page Count
- 304 pages
- Grand Central Publishing