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Of the Farm: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

John Updike
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $6.01 (38%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

In this short novel, Joey Robinson, a thirty-five-year-old New Yorker, describes a visit he makes, with his second wife and eleven-year-old stepson, to the Pennsylvania farm where he grew up and where his aging mother now lives alone. For three days, a quartet of voices explores the air, making confessions, seeking alignments, quarreling, pleading, and pardoning. They are not entirely alone: ghosts (fathers, lovers, children) press upon them, as do phantoms from the near future (nurses, lawyers, land developers). Of the Farm concerns the places people choose to live their lives, and the strategies they use to stand their ground.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews


“A small masterpiece . . . With Of the Farm, John Updike has achieved a sureness of touch, a suppleness of style, and a subtlety of vision that is gained by few writers of fiction.”—The New York Times
“An excellent book . . . [Updike] has the painter’s eye for form, line, and color; the poet’s ear for metaphor; and the storyteller’s knack for ‘and then what happened?’ ”—Harper’s
“Updike is a master of sheer elegance of form that shows itself time and again.”—Los Angeles Times

From the Trade Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

5 1-hour cassettes

Product Details

  • File Size: 922 KB
  • Print Length: 145 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0345468228
  • Publisher: Random House; Reprint edition (March 13, 2012)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006NKMM3E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #590,414 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Intricate and Dramatic Story About Relationships April 1, 2009
Of The Farm details the complex relationship between a son in his mid-thirties and his elderly mother. The son brings his new wife and her son from a previous marriage to his mother's remote farm, and it's obvious from the beginning that the mother and the wife are not going to get along.

Though a brief novel, Updike delivers an intricate and dramatic story peeling away the complicated layers that make up relationships. Throughout the book, the man is constantly on alert, hoping to defuse any arguments between the women in his life, but he refuses to stand up to his mother nor does he seem totally invested in being committed to his wife.

In fact, the man is an incredibly interesting character because he is so flawed, so monumentally incapable of mediating the warring women in a healthy manner, that he almost leaps off the page. Surely he'll remind you of someone you know ... perhaps even yourself. The women were also expertly written, something that doesn't always happen with a male author. I found the mother and wife realistic, respectable, and equally as flawed as the main character.

Though lacking any real physical action, Updike's study of mothers and sons and husbands and wives is wickedly enticing and, as always, written very well.

~Scott William Foley, author of Souls Triumphant
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another Toxic Mother September 12, 2009
Of the Farm by John Updike should be read along with Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth. They both portray toxic mothers but from archly different perspectives. And they are almost contemporaneous works from the mid-1960s. Unlike Portnoy's Complaint no hint of humor lightens Updike's novel, nor is the mood anything but tense, strained, and difficult--just like much of life. But a little humor to help keep one's perspective wouldn't hurt, would it?

I would call Of the Farm "minimalist fiction." It is short and there is no action to speak of; no plot except what swirls underground as it were, no violence, no sex, nothing to keep the readers attention except the intricate portrayal of human relationships in the family, in this case a "blended" one--and, of course, Updike's fine writing, which at times gets a bit overdone with excessive and flowery metaphors that are only distracting and draw attention to the author rather than illuminating the characters or story. "See how clever I am and how fine I can turn a phrase. Bet you can't write this good. (I mean "well." Sorry.)"

Updike explores many issues of 1960s America in a compressed way--such issues as divorce with children, remarriage with children, aging, encroaching suburbanization, the slow disappearance of rural life in the Northeast, urban v. rural life. Of course, central to all are the relations between mother and son. Heck, these issues are still very much in the air today.

Of the Farm is full of nostalgia for something slipping away and maybe lost. There is also a wonderful mini-portrait/characterization of a precocious eleven year old boy. I think that was my favorite aspect of the novel.

The editorial review praise for Of the Farm seems quite overblown to me. If they say that stuff about Of the Farm, what would they say about a really good novel? Is this some sort of "praise inflation"?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A distillation--good and bad--of Updike August 4, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
In OF THE FARM, Updike scrutinizes the plight of Joey Robinson, a 35 year-old New Yorker, as he returns to the farm where he lived his adolescence and visits his difficult mother. Joey is with Peggy, his second wife, and her precocious eleven year-old son, who uses such words as "uncanny" and "perhaps". On this visit, Joey will step in for his father, who died the summer before, and mow the fields. But the point of the visit is to enable Mary, Joey's mother, to get to know Peggy, who she has met only once before. As they pull up to the farmhouse for their visit, Joey tells Peggy: "I don't expect you and she to get along."

The Robinsons are not nice people. Joey imagines himself to be a peacemaker, a youthful role he adopted to protect his complaisant father from his acerbic mother. But he does, in fact, have a mean streak, not unlike Mom, and does, sometimes, say harsh things to Peggy or animate her insecurities. Like his mother, Joey is also ruthless within his family. In this case, he finds guilty liberation in his divorce and remarriage while Mary had her superior and selfish reasons--mostly, she wanted full control over her son--when she forced her family to move to the isolated farm. The Robinsons, by the way, share nasty confidences about Peggy after she has gone to bed. Mary calls her stupid and common and Joey does not disagree. And without much pushing from Mary, Joey agrees that he misses his three children and that the second marriage was a mistake. But, he seems to be saying, it was HIS mistake. So accept it.

OF THE FARM exhibits many of Updike's maddening literary qualities. There is, for example, the wooden dialogue, with characters attaining near doctoral and implausible nuance. There are also the sudden and fraught exchanges--those "where did that come from?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic Updike March 3, 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
OF THE FARM is not for the feint-hearted, nor for those looking for sympathetic characters. It is grueling, a word by word march on strained relationships and bad decisions. But, that's also what makes it worthwhile, Updike prying into the human condition. Joey is undoubtedly Updike himself, leaving Olinger, marrying poorly, and living by the ocean in order to breathe. The mother is selfishness personified. The new wife lacks compassion. The only redeeming character is the young stepson, too young to know exactly what is going on around him. Still, intense Updike is great Updike, even if it brings a twinge of pain to turn to the next page.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Enjoyed very much.
Published 1 month ago by Micheline Brenan
5.0 out of 5 stars exquisite
There is no question why Updike is so revered. The writing is absolutely exquisite and the story has a familiar ring, I am sure, for every reader.
Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars can't help loving it
I have a vast admiration for Updike's ability to scrutinize and then expose in intricate detail his relationship with his family and surroundings. Read more
Published 9 months ago by KSreader
5.0 out of 5 stars A literary gem often overlooked
Updike is famous. What this moving and poignant story is about is less important than the sheer brilliance of the words sewn together. Read more
Published 11 months ago by adam bronson
5.0 out of 5 stars Updike at his early best
There has been no other modern American writer as gifted as John Updike. Variations of this story appear in several of his stories over the years and all are well worth the read. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Michael Keeran
4.0 out of 5 stars The Power of a Sentence
I've never read Updike and grabbed this book because of the blurb on the cover: 'Updike's best'. Whether this is his best work or not, I'll be reading more from him. Read more
Published on September 27, 2012 by HDTwoodsman
3.0 out of 5 stars REVIEW
Not bad for my first Updike novel. The mother teetering on the edge of insanity kept my attention. I like the simplistic writing of Updike. Read more
Published on March 19, 2012 by neilsing
4.0 out of 5 stars Updike or Not
I am not a huge Updike reader. Of the Farm is rich in description of character & scenery but not much of story. So is it worth a read? You bet it is. Read more
Published on October 31, 2010 by G. C. Picchetti
5.0 out of 5 stars Tiny & Terrific
A must have for fans of Updike and new readers. This small novel is amazingly detailed and shockingly deep. The ideas touched in this story will have your brain kicking you. Read more
Published on January 19, 2008 by Gift Card Recipient
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More About the Author

John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and spent a year in Oxford, England, at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art. From 1955 to 1957 he was a member of the staff of The New Yorker, and since 1957 lived in Massachusetts. He was the father of four children and the author of more than fifty books, including collections of short stories, poems, essays, and criticism. His novels won the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Rosenthal Award, and the Howells Medal. A previous collection of essays, Hugging the Shore, received the 1983 National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism. John Updike died on January 27, 2009, at the age of 76.

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