Kauffman's Trespassing begins with a series of short stories about the people who work for these factory farms, who have to live near them, or who are doing the tough unpaid work of monitoring their effects on the local environment. The second half of the book has beautifully structured personal essays that, among other things, tell us a lot about how water flows through our southern Michigan landscape and about the assaults on these watersheds. It makes for a remarkable combination of genres that has an effect unlike anything else I have read.
Janet Kauffman is not sanguine about the possibilities of healing our blasted rural landscape. In fact, at times she seems to be stretching for the most tenuous connection to hope. But there are moments, exquisite because of their fragility, where she becomes a celebrant of what she fights to defend. Near the end she writes, "Homeland and habitat, every watershed is worth protecting. Worth celebrating. Water's in our blood, it's our lifeline, and it binds us. To stoneflies and stones, to skunk cabbage and clams, to rotting leaves and cooking cake."
Janet Kauffman reads at Shaman Drum Bookshop on Wednesday, July 9.
[Review published July 2008]