Tuesday, November 15, 2022

The English Major by Jim Harrison


As Cliff hits sixty, his whole life changes.  He has been a cherry farmer for decades, living on his wife's family farm and keeping things going.  Now Vivian has left him for an old high school flame and the farm has been sold.  After all the years of work, Cliff only gets ten percent of the price so he's broke as well.  Outside of farming, he taught high school English for a while but never really liked that.  What is he going to do with himself now?

He decides to take a road trip across the country to see all the places he has never seen.  As he goes, he thinks about his future and then there's the woman question.  He still has feeling for Vivian and can't believe his marriage is over.  There's Babe, the waitress he has been spending time with lately.  Then a former student, Marybelle, who he has kept in contact with over the years, asks if he can give her a ride out West to a friend's house.  He agrees and falls into the sexual fantasy of his life.  There isn't anything Marybelle won't do and so often that he can barely walk. 

Cliff's goal is to make it to San Francisco where his son lives.  Along the way, he visits old friends who have moved away, calls old friends back home, fishes when he can and muses on what he'll do next.  He thinks about renaming the states and all the native birds of America and figures that will take quite a while but after that he's stumped.

Jim Harrison writes books about people most of us can imagine knowing.  He delves into their thoughts and dreams and makes their lives understandable.  He wrote over thirty books, and was known for his poetry as well as his novels.  His books celebrate the land and the life lived by those who choose to live away from the cities.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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