Friday, August 24, 2012

The Horizontal World by Debra Marquart

The Horizontal World:  Growing Up in the Middle of Nowhere by Debra Marquart

North Dakota is a land of extremes. Extreme cold weather in the winter, with snow piled high.  Extreme hot and humid weather in summer with a sea of praire grass and crops blowing in the wind.  North Dakota is inhabited by hearty people who are drawn to the land and landscape.  Not everyone can survive here.

Debra Marquart was born in North Dakota and raised on a farm that has passed through four generations.   Beginning with her great grandfather who emigrated from Russia in the late 1800's, to Deb's brother who currently owns it, the farm has an undeniable pull on the Marquart family.  Yet from an early age Deb had plans to escape the farm and the rural ways of life and planned to be a city girl.  Milking cows early every morning, driving the tractor, planting corn, all of it hard work.  She yearned for more and as she read books to escape her daily reality, she made plans to leave.

Marquart's memoir is a tale of leaving home and her struggle to retrieve the sense of self she gets from the land we call North Dakota.  Marquart includes her personal family history and their inherent and meaningful ties to the land.  She includes the history and geography of the land we call North Dakota.  You will laugh and cry along with Marquart and try to figure out how you are related after reading The Horizontal World.

North Dakota is the land of farmers and lonely oil boom workers, sunflower fields, beautiful buttes and the stunning Killdeer mountains and canyons.  I have lived in Minnesota all my life and never visited North Dakota until this year.  I read Marquart's book as a way to become familiar with a place I've never been to and to understand it's people and history and I am so glad I did.  Being a midwestern girl myself and spending summers on my grandfathers Wisconsin farm, I could relate to so much of Marquart's life in the middle of nowhere.  I remember plucking chickens and milking cows and smelling like manure most of the time and I couldn't wait to leave.  As an adult who now lives in the city, I cherish my time on the farm and it seems like it is always calling my name and reminding me of my connection to the land I love.

The Horizontal World captures the essence of the people, the place and the land of North Dakota.