A poetic novel of despair, hope and the redemptive power of the soil. The loss of his right hand in an accident embitters Andy Catlett, a journalist who covers agricultural issues. As he mourns his missing hand, Catlett discovers healing strength in memories of his farmer ancestors and their ties to the earth, and in the example of a modest Amish farmer who is content with his small farm and honest labor. Wendell Berry contrasts modern American agribusiness--which he depicts as an artificial conglomeration of sterile flow charts, debts and mechanization--with the older ideal of farming as a nurturing way of life. Like the wise Turk in "Candide," Berry maintains that working the land "keeps away the three great evils: boredom, vice and need," and he frames his arguements in a seductively evocative, almost misty prose.