Book Review: Bad Lands An American Romance by Jonathan Raban

The Tired Mom’s Book Rating

 ☑☑☑☑ 4 pager



I wouldn’t mind reading this book again. It has all of my favorite topics- history, farming, natural history, botany, geography, biography, economics, politics, an ever present chipping away at the purported thought of the day, and wit. I have new eyes to see North Dakota and almost want to move there – you’ll have to read the book to see why I’m hesitant….. The history of North Dakota, being similar to Nebraska,  provided an eye opener to the pioneers of this state.

Some of the wit probably flew over my head due reading this book at the end of the day when my wits were dulled. Now and then I’d have to read and reread a sentence that I just wasn’t following. No doubt, some piece I wasn’t putting together – meaning, it’s me, not the book. But that was minuscule compared to all the gems I found.

This would be a good book for a teenager. It could pass as geography or history. There are a couple questionable words near the end. Being a book written in the ‘90’s, there is a chapter or so that revolves around Ted Kaczynski and the Oklahoma City bombing that someone born after 2000 might not have a context for… nothing objectionable mentioned (aside from the events that made these names famous), but a teen of today may have no idea why the author is randomly talking about these people. Back in the ‘90’s we all knew….  If you are wanting to preview this book before giving it to a teen, but don’t have time to read it all, start at about chapter 7 and read to the end. That will give you the issues with the book that might need explaining.

I took a chance on this book, purchasing it at the local library sale. But one look at the cover sold me. A black and white picture of an old weathered farm house, several windows boarded up, with an open wagon in front. Once someone’s pride and joy, today a relic of the hard work and worries of the past.

Favorite Quotes

“But in the words of the matchbook-epigram that Evelyn copied into her commonplace book, ‘Buying cheap goods to save money is like stopping the clock to save time.’ ”–p.82

“Rain follows the plow” – the undercurrent  thought that drove the settling of this area, pops up throughout this book in word and thought.

“Honyockers.” This word just makes me smile. It’s fun to say. It looks intriguing. I can just see the ranchers saying it although I doubt there was much of a smile in their demeanor.  Interestingly, in the book I’m currently reading, I got a clue as to the use and definition of this word – as if it needs defining.

“It gathers up all the anger and contempt that the ranchers felt for the newcomers, and squeezes them together into a single utterance, like the sound a man might make when delivering a gob into a spittoon. Honyockers!”–p.121 used often throughout the book.

“The only time Percy ever said anything to me about the homestead, it was just a single sentence. We were sitting up late one night over a glass of whisky. There was a silence. Then he said he hoped he’d never again have to see anything like his mother, down on her knees, day after day, praying for rain. That was it. That was all he ever said.’ ”–p.91

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