Article first published as Book Review: Blue Earth by Anya Achtenberg on Blogcritics.
In “Blue Earth” Anya Achtenberg captures the “quiet loneliness” of the unspoken depth of unfulfilled dreams, dreams of ownership and family. Carver Heinz, a seventh-generation German farmer in Blue Earth County, Minnesota lost both. His wife left with his young daughter in the midst of the farm crisis of the 1980s, when the power of the earth played havoc with the crops adding to the power of the bankers in a rush of greedy foreclosures on farmers, their acreage and homes. Carver’s dreams turned to nightmares.
Forced by the bank to auction his farm and equipment, Carver left Mankato in a move to Minneapolis where he found employment as a service station attendant. He was no longer providing food from the earth but selling fossil fuels from within the earth – a dismal acceptance of his fate.
In another chance act of fate, Carver rescues a young child from a tornado. After returning the young girl (Angie) to her parents, Mopstick (August) and Barb, Carver becomes obsessed with Angie, a constant reminder of his own five-year-old daughter, Rosie. As the years pass, Carver marks time by the after-shock of the tornado; celebrating the seasons, observing the date of Rosie’s birth, and watching Angie develop into young womanhood. Angie’s developing relationship with William, a young Dakota Indian incites Carver’s rage, fueled from a deeply instilled hatred for the Dakota Indians of Blue Earth Country.
Achtenberg carefully develops characters whose lives intersect. Their individual stories reflect patterns and cycles of sexual and social abuse, dysfunctional families, the dynamics of being victimized by cancer, family DNA, as well as their reaction to circumstances, the scars of rejection and disfigurement, and the hatred of prejudice. She offers hope for healing through forgetting the past and presents a classic contrast of inner beauty and perceived ugliness. Significant related events include a cultural heritage dating back to the 1862 Dakota conflict which resulted in the death sentences and public hanging of thirty-eight of the condemned Dakotas.
“Blue Earth” delivers an intense message warning against the personal dangers of hypocrisy, prejudiced judgment, and unresolved forgiveness while encouraging the reader to see the beauty in their everyday world with gratefulness for their family and friends.
Achtenberg incorporates a powerful poetic prose into a literary style which can bring the reader to the tears, ignite a flame of passion in their heart, and move them to take action against social abuse, the injustice of war, corporate greed, or the misuse of political power. “Blue Earth” is superbly written, thoroughly researched, and deeply moving.