James E. Kibler, Jr.

Tiller is set in upcountry South Carolina in the year 2008. Its chief character, who has just turned sixty, is doing what he can to maintain a sane life in and for his farm community in a time that is seriously out of joint. After the tragic loss of his wife two decades ago, Chauncey still lives alone on his family farm, but has slowly rejoined the world. It is his ties to the land and the members of his community that aid in the healing process.

Tiller details this coming back to normalcy through his primary friendships with Kildee and Bess Henderson, Clint Blair (his dead wife’s brother) and Trig Tinsley, a childhood friend who has had his own problems. These are characters met in Kibler’s three previous novels set in this same community: Memory’s Keep (which takes place in 1975), Walking Toward Home(set in 2003), and The Education of Chauncey Doolittle (set the year before in 2007).

A new character, Dana Oxner, now divorced, returns home from corporate life in Charlotte seeking normalcy as well.  Both she and Chauncey have scars that still need healing and together find solace in one another.  In many ways the novel inverts the plot of Thomas Hardy’s famous tragic novel, The Return of the Native.

Tiller can be read alone, but achieves richness and complexity from its three predecessors. It thus forms the cap and final volume of a full tetralogy. Few such literary accomplishments are to be found in modern literature.

Hardback ISBN: 978-0997939323

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