Cover image for Five thousand days like this one : an American family history
Five thousand days like this one : an American family history
Brox, Jane, 1956-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston, Mass. : Beacon Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
182 pages ; 23 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
CT274.B779 B758 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Wnen her father dies and leaves her to decide the fate of the family farm, Jane Brox wonders how family identity--language, food, a grandfather's wish for "five thousand days like this one"--can endure when so few traces of former lives are left. With a poet's eye and a historian's hunger, she is driven to search out her family's past in the fascinating and quintessentially American history of the Merrimack Valley, its farmers, and the immigrant workers caught up in the industrial textile age.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The death of Brox's father, farmer and son of Lebanese immigrants, places a number of responsibilities in her hands. There is the business aspect of the farm. Who will prune the apple trees? Who will decide what seeds to plant? Her mother and her aunt, although still independent, must be cared for and watched. And there is a less-tangible responsibility as guardian of the stories and memories of immigrants from Lebanon in Massachusetts: the food they ate, the customs they followed, the few scraps of Arabic left in their speech, the stories they told of life in the mill towns, of wars and epidemics. The farm is in the Merrimack Valley, a place that has seen history from the Native tribes that settled there to the first colonists to Thoreau and his travels on the river to the industrial towns of Lowell and Lawrence to today's suburban sprawl. Brox, in her lyrical prose, twines the ends of all of these threads into a graceful story of nostalgia and identity. --Danise Hoover

Publisher's Weekly Review

Brox delicately interweaves the voices of her late father, Henry David Thoreau and immigrant mill workers in the early 20th century in this elegant meditation on life in the Merrimack Valley in Massachussets. After working in textile mills where "cloth dust [fell] constant as high mountain flurries," Brox's Lebanese-born grandparents bought a farm where her father planted apple orchards and to which she returned after his death in 1995. In a series of reflections using family memories as points of departure, she lyrically evokes the time before the Pawtucket Indians died out from European diseases and the days when Thoreau sailed on the Merrimack River, as well as the 1912 Strike for Bread and Roses, when local militias were called in to contain mill workers striking over 16 cents or so in weekly wages (two loaves of bread). Brox's care with historical detail means women are not omitted from her accounts. She writes sensitively of the girls who "waited for marriage" in the mills, making cloth destined to become "worn and bleached and frayed by time and effort until it was patched and threadbare, and at last cut up for quilts or rags or a child's toy, after which it all but disappeared." She wistfully acknowledges that American farms like her family's are now referred to as "agro-entertainment," while former mill buildings house computer industries and synthetic textile trades. This is a clear-eyed and cogent history of farming, immigrant life and one American family written in prose that sparkles like the Merrimack River once did. (Mar.) FYI: Brox was awarded the 1996 L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award and a 1994 National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

YA-Pondering the recent death of her father, Brox reflects on her Lebanese and Italian heritage and the people who developed the farm in the Merrimack Valley of New England that she must now manage on her own. Using family reminiscences, archival materials, and quotations from Thoreau, she details the story of the stalwart men and women who formed the working communities of mill towns like Lowell and Lawrence-immigrants who struggled, slaved, and dreamed of a better life. Saving their meager wages, the lucky ones who survived the horrors of the mill purchased farms and then toiled to make the land flourish with dairy farms and orchards. The bitter labor strikes and the influenza epidemic of 1918 became part of the fabric of the valley's history. As more and more land was devoured by the so-called progress of development, Brox's father clung to his farm and rejoiced in his apple orchards. The author remembers fondly the family reunion at which her aged grandfather who had purchased the land toasted the family with "five thousand days like this one." She recounts her family history with nostalgia for the lost beauty of the land but this is no lament. Her writing evokes a love for the past coupled with the hope of saving part of the heritage that shaped the valley and its people. Her story has universal appeal because of the many voices the author calls up to enrich her memoir.-Mary T. Gerrity, Queen Anne School, Upper Marlboro, MD (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.