This captivating memoir is a “startling testimony to the glories and sorrows of raising and harvesting plants and animals” (Anthony Doerr, best-selling author of All the Light We Cannot See), as an itinerant farmhand chronicles the wonders hidden within the ever-blooming seasons of life, death, and rebirth.
Pig Years catapults American nature writing into the 21st century, and has been hailed by Lydia Davis and Aimee Nezhukumatathil as “engrossing” and “a marvel.” As a farmer in Upstate New York and Vermont, Ellyn Gaydos lives on the knife edge between loss and gain. Her debut memoir draws us into this precarious world, conjuring with stark simplicity the lifeblood of the farm: its livestock and stark full moons, the sharp cold days lives near to the land. Joy and tragedy are frequent bedfellows. Fields go barren and animals meet their end too soon, but then their bodies become food in a time-old human ritual. Seasonal hands are ground down by the hard work, but new relationships are formed, love blossoms and Gaydos yearns to become a mother. As winter’s dark descends, Pig Years draws us into a violent and gorgeous world where pigs are star-bright symbols of hope and beauty surfaces in the furrows, the sow, even in the slaughter.
In hardy, lyrical prose that recalls the agrarian writing of Annie Dillard and Wendell Berry, Gaydos asks us to bear witness to the work that sustains us all and to reconsider what we know of survival and what saves us. Pig Years is a rapturous reckoning of love, labor, and loss within a landscape given to flux.
ELLYN GAYDOS received an M.F.A. in nonfiction from Columbia University. Her work has received the Richard J. Margolis Award for nonfiction writers of social justice journalism, and appeared in The Texas Review, Columbia Journal, and Ninth Letter, where she received the 2017 award for creative nonfiction. She lives in New Lebanon, New York.