Down on the Farm (pun intended)

Dominic Cibrario (Nepal 1962-64) is one of the many RPCVs who are publishing their novels as PODs. He sent it to me a few months ago and I’m happy to be able to showcase Tucker Clark who also served in Nepal, review the novel about farm life in Wisconsin.

Secrets of the Family Farm
by Dominic Cibrario (Nepal 1962-64)
Booksurge, 2008

Reviewed by W. Tucker Clark (Nepal 1967-70)

It was puzzling to me why John Coyne asked me to review this book. It was written by someone I had never heard of from the first Peace Corps Volunteer to Nepal. I thought I was fairly knowledgeable about writers, particularly about India and the Peace Corps (thanks to this wonderful webizine), but Dominic Cibrario was new to me.

I recently found myself too busy with the Presidential race to start Dominic Cibrario’s self-published paperback, but I knew I had to honor my deadline and tried to start Secrets on the Family Farm, and it seemed too ‘Little House on the Prairie-middle America and down with the cows in 1950 for me.

John had sent me his website, where I discovered that Dominic Cibrario was a retired school teacher from Racine, Wisconsin, an artist, Sanskrit student, poet, and before this Wisconsin setting novel, had written a trilogy about Nepal called The Garden of Kathmandu Trilogy.

A reviewer for Indian-Asian News Service in April 2007 was so amazed that a westerner novelist knew so much about customs, cults, Nepal and village life and could make that scenario so ‘not for the faint of heart’ and still a great read and incredibly prescient.

It appears the characters in this trilogy predicted not only the massacre of the Royal family but in The Shamans, the daughter of a shaman predicted this massacre to be done by the idiot crown prince, and in The Harvest, there is a scene that predated the 19 days in April 2006 of street protests by the Insurgents-so-called Maoists linked  with the seven party opposition against the corrupt royal regime.

That said, and wanting to read those novels, instead I hunkered in the Westport, Connecticut library to finish this 305 page book set in Middle America.

The writer, in trying to reproduce a farm-life world in 1952, at first seemed too cutesy with stretched metaphors and stereotypical Norman Rockwell settings. Then we begin to wonder why 10-year-old Adam fears that he is pregnant? Why does he hate the weird 14-year-old friend who is involved with the creepy Catholic priest? And what is the symbolism of all the O’Henry-like characters who are reliving their World War II experiences?

The scenes of farm-life and chores, of German-accented grandmothers, troubled marriages and Catholic sins are all intricately intertwined. The novel is well paced, and the setting is vividly rendered. Dominic comments that Kenosha, Wisconsin is a real place. And that he grew up on such a farm. However, all the characters in this novel are taken from his imagination, with the exception of a similarity to his Italian mother of the important grandmother, Sophia Montanya.)

I recommend this novel. It is a worthy alterative to any Peace Corps book we might be thinking of writing ourselves. It’s not literature, but if you are retired it can help you kill an afternoon in any library in America.

Now, I’m onto The Garden of Kathmandu Trilogy!

W. Tucker Clark is a semi-retired, consultant, writer, workshop leader, VH-1 pro-social producer, clinical therapist, outdoorsman, practicing Boobysattva and ACIM devotee, lover of Hambro Nepal, who is happily divorced, and open to new projects and adventures.

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