Sunday, November 6, 2011


"Barn Stories" by Morrice author Larry Neitzert (LWN Press, $14.95) is an amazingly good collection of 14 mesmerizing short stories by one of Michigan's most talented writers.

Neitzert, who gained acclaim with his excellent debut novel, "Maggie's Farm," last year, has self-published an exceptionally entertaining paperback anthology that smoothly delves into a variety of human emotions.

While the central action takes place inside an assortment of Michigan barns, Neitzert covers a lot of territory, beginning with "A Blue Uniform for Jonathon" a thought-provoking story set during the Civil War.

Neitzert's next tale deals with an unusual discovery by four boys in a pile of rubbish on a creek bank. Their journey to the barn and the ultimate resolution is both realistic and hilarious.

"Painted Barn" is similar, dealing with two farmers' wives, their strong beliefs and frustrations; the surprising ending certainly is unexpected.

Other stories offer sobering viewpoints from the wives of farmers or their children, examining the changing role that agriculture or livestock production is having in today's economy.

In the haylofts and in the barns, Neitzert showcases his masterful storytelling talents when dealing with aging, proud farmers who face considerable challenges.

"Retirement for Louise" focuses on a woman who wants to escape the farm life; her stubborn husband has other ideas. Another story deals with rural racism; others explore many generational differences and similarities.

"What to Do With Uncle Paul" is an emotional short story about an elderly relative who grew up on his sister's farm and has problems adjusting when the farm must be sold.

Neitzert's short stories are best absorbed a little at a time. It's almost like taking literary vitamins: one a day should make you feel much better.

The author is an MSU graduate who grew up on a farm in Coldwater and was a classroom teacher and athletic coach for 31 years. He is an adjunct instructor at Baker College of Owosso in social studies, where he teaches history.

Copies of the book can be ordered for $17.95 postpaid from the author at Larry Neitzert, P.O. Box 251, Morrice, MI 48857.

Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed Michigan books regularly since 1987.

This review was originally published in the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, November 6th, 2011.

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