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Shepherd: A Memoir Paperback – May 1, 2014


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 318 pages
  • Publisher: Michigan State University Press; 1 edition (May 1, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1611861179
  • ISBN-13: 978-1611861174
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,049,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

Shepherd is the most graphic, honest, heartrending, and heartwarming account of undertaking an adventure in farming that I have ever read. Embracing both untamed nature and human nature, this book makes compelling reading for both those who farm and those who don’t.
—Gene Logsdon, author of All Flesh is Grass: The Pleasures and Promises of Pasture Farming


Shepherd explores one man’s realization of a boyhood dream. But as they say in southern Ohio, “It weren’t easy.” Richard Gilbert writes with honesty, in gorgeous prose, about the joys and setbacks, bringing to vivid life an enchanted Appalachian valley filled with unforgettable characters.
—Dinty W. Moore, author of Between Panic and Desire


What a delightful book. So authentic in its descriptions of those peculiar critters, sheep. It brings back so many memories of my life at Malabar Farm and the spring lambing season, which seldom failed to deliver to me an orphan to be brought up on a bottle. People say sheep don’t have much sense. But from the sheep I’ve known, this strikes me as being a very precipitous judgment. Anyone who reads this book will be encouraged to see what I mean.
—Ellen Bromfield Geld, author of The Heritage: A Daughter’s Memories of Louis Bromfield


There’s no book like it.
—Bill Roorbach, author of Temple Stream: A Rural Odyssey


Shepherd is the story of one man’s dream of returning to the land, but Richard Gilbert’s glorious memoir is more than that. It’s a universal story of families, the ones we try to redeem and the ones we strive to create and maintain. Gilbert writes with a keen eye and a quiet grace. His portrait of the natural world takes us into the interior landscape of its very human, very likeable guide—an honorable, courageous man. I’m so very happy to have had the chance to meet him in these pages.
—Lee Martin, author of Such a Life and From Our House


Gilbert’s descriptions of landscape and characters and, most impressively, of the work he does—and why—are terrific: often poetic, sometimes funny, and always infused with love.
—Ana Maria Spagna, author of Potluck: Community on the Edge of Wilderness


With topics ranging from the specific compartments of a ruminant’s stomach to spirituality, to neighbors, and to history, Richard Gilbert’s book unfolds the true slow-motion adventure of a clear-eyed, realistic, modern back-to-the-lander. It is the best fence conversation you’ve ever had, from an instinctive storyteller. He searches carefully in this book for something we’ve all begun to wonder about: where is, he asks, “the wisdom of those who stayed put?”
—Liz Stephens, author of The Days Are Gods

About the Author

Richard Gilbert teaches writing at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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It is the story of a Shephard, more than the sheep.
P. Mann
This is what makes Richard Gilbert's book worth reading, and why I won't just forget it and go on to the next.
Elizabeth Westmark
I would especially recommend it to any person seeking to follow his or her passion.
Irish

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Marsha McGregor on May 20, 2014
Format: Paperback
I was thoroughly caught up in all aspects of Shepherd — dreams, loss, farming and fatherhood, certainly, but also the craft of the writing. The book maintains an exquisite balance of its core elements. It moves backward and forward in time seamlessly. So I got to learn about ruminants and agriculture, the region’s academic and agrarian cultural frictions, a family journey AND how to structure a memoir. A vivid, tender and evocative book, with a fine tension that pulls the reader forward.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Westmark on June 30, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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 boy-man. And aren't we all self-critical and self-punishing? The desire to set right old family scripts and in the doing sometimes nearly repeat them is a theme that many readers of a certain age can relate to in their own lives as we each negotiate the shoals of nostalgia, regret, and reconciliation.

The book's details are awfully nice, and the writing tender and clear. I especially enjoyed Richard's wry observations about the Gilbert family's neighbors at Mossy Dell and his finely drawn comparisons between the "stable, affluent world" they enjoyed at the comfortable home they left in Indiana, and the raw-boned reality of trying to make an agrarian dream come true in Ohio's hardscrabble Appalachian region.

Some folks will read Shepherd because they are interested in their own agrarian dream. I found it to be "bigger" -- applicable to anyone's concept of a self-created Eden, which, as Richard notes in his prologue, "could be so very complicated." I look back at businesses my husband and I created, sweated over, and were barely able to sell; at a waterfront cottage we bought hoping the "knockerdowner" on it could be salvaged (it couldn't); even our unsuccessful efforts to "achieve" fertility after I was past forty.

Read Shepherd.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John Wylie on April 28, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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 immerses himself completely and intimately into everything--the weather, vegetation, his beloved sheep, and the lives of the people in a poor Appalachian community.

At one level, there is the haunting redemption of a distant father's paradise lost weaving through the background. There is the lifetime naturalist, who knows the identity and history of all the vegetation he encounters, the seasoned newspaper reporter for whom it is second nature to bag someone's story in a heartbeat, and a genuine curiosity about everything and everybody he encounters.

Most of all is the courage of his honesty. If not for the sheer pleasure of its artistry, read this book to find out what honesty is, because you can't sit down and make that up: you either have it or you don't, and Richard Gilbert possesses that rarest of gifts.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By James Bailey on June 16, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was eager to read this memoir because a friend had recommended it to me and also because of the subject--the experiences of a non-farmer undertaking to raise sheep and to reclaim over-farmed, and badly farmed, land in Southern Ohio. I liked the book even more than I had expected to. Gilbert's narrative tells quite a lot about sheep, their diseases and idiosyncrasies--maybe more than some readers will care to know--but more importantly he tells about his growth, about making peace with his father, about becoming part of a community that can seem odd and unwelcoming to an outsider whose "other life" is in the academic world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Darrelyn Saloom ficwriter on June 13, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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.

His daughter Claire: She crouched and swung her elbows, scrunched her face at Tom as if she were a crone whose shoes weighed a thousand pounds.

(Tom and Claire’s descriptions are from one of my favorite scenes in the book.)

And Gilbert’s straight-talking neighbor and friend, Mike Guthrie: For all his provocation, we hit it off because we were alike in at least one respect. “For me,” he’d said, “farming is romance, not business.”

This is just a sampling from Shepherd, a beautifully crafted memoir with unforgettable characters told with love and honesty by a gifted storyteller.
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More About the Author

Richard Gilbert's essays have been published by Brevity; Chautauqua; Fourth Genre; Orion; River Teeth; and Utne Reader. His articles have appeared in Farming: People, Land, Community; Sheep Canada; The Shepherd; The Stockman Grassfarmer. Gilbert formerly served as marketing manager of Ohio University Press/Swallow Press. Before that he was a newspaper reporter in Georgia, Florida, and Indiana, where he won awards for public service and feature writing and a Kiplinger fellowship to Ohio State University. He holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Goucher College, Baltimore.

Shepherd's Pinterest page has photos and updates: http://www.pinterest.com/RichardSGilbert/my-memoir-of-farming/

Richard Gilbert's web site and blog: http://richardgilbert.me

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