Clearing Land

Legacies of the American Farm


A Best Book of the Year: Chicago Tribune, The Boston Globe, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

North Point Press/
Farrar, Straus and Giroux: 2004
Paperback: 2005

Jane Brox twines two narratives, personal and historic, to explore the place of the family farm as it has evolved from the Pilgrims’ brutal progress at Plymouth to the modern world, where much of our food is produced by industrial agriculture while the family farm is both marginalized and romanticized. In considering the place of the farm Brox traces the transformation of the idea of wilderness – and its intricate connection to cultivation – which changed as our ties to the land loosened. Exploring these strands with neither judgment or sentimentality, Brox arrives at something beyond a biography of the farm: a vivid depiction of the half-life it carries on in our collective imagination.

PRAISE for Clearing Land

“This masterful collage of memoir and history both explodes and reorders the mythos of the American family farm…. The author plants words, ideas, and emotions with precision and daring.”
– Betty Fussell

Clearing Land…parlays the resonantly detailed specifics of life on her immigrant family’s farm in Massachusetts into a larger consideration of the meaning of cleared land and its relationship to other iconic locations in the American landscape: wilderness, prairie, mountain, city. Her precise, eloquent prose, wedded to a sensibility that manages to be at once elegiac and hard-minded, strikes unerringly through sentiment and convention to the heart of the matter…. Brox’s double charged language turns family drama into something bigger [in writing] so arresting that even the most urban reader feels the author’s sense-memory as his own.”
– Carlo Rotella, Chicago Tribune

“It takes discipline, discrimination, and genius, really, to elevate memory and a sense of loss to art. Two writers who achieved this spring instantly to mind, Joseph Roth and Joseph Brodsky, and to their company I would add Jane Brox….Clearing Land is the book’s guiding metaphor, one that encompasses both time and space, and serves brilliantly to compare the material world and its flux without our attempts to understand it….This [Brox ] does with eloquent melancholy, a melancholy sprung not only from loss but from impotence before the essential mutability of all things and the transience of understanding.”
– Katherine A. Powers, The Boston Sunday Globe

Clearing Land, concisely (and exquisitely) written, is a personal paean to a particular love, and a loss, a benediction of the before, the now of farming, farm families, the future of farm acres…. With utter finesse Brox weaves the words on meaning of land use and land ownership into her narrative.”
– Hannah Merker, Maine Sunday Telegram


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Or locally in Maine from:
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134 Maine Street
Brunswick, Maine


  • The Boston Sunday Globe 9/12/2004
  • The Boston Globe, 9/29/2004
  • Chicago Tribune, 10/24/2004
  • Albany Times Union, 10/10/2004
  • Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/2/2004
  • Maine Sunday Telegram, 12/12/2004
  • The Women’s Review of Books, Nov, 2004
  • Publishers Weekly, 8/16/2004
  • Kirkus Reviews, 8/15/2004