A Review of John T. Frederick’s Green Bush (Knopf, 1925)

By Maureen Theobald

Frank Thompson’s love of his hometown and his father’s farm were overshadowed by his mother’s deep and passionate love of her son, and what she wanted for him. She knew how creative and intellectual he was, and she desperately wanted him to make the most of those God-given talents. Although the tension between them lasted a lifetime, he was able to come to a place of peace in his final days, knowing that she would ultimately want happiness for her only child.

Frank seems to struggle emotionally at times, not necessarily more than what one might expect, considering some of the circumstances that befall him. Indeed, he has concrete reasons for many of his struggles. But, at the same time, he has been fortunate. He was born into a well-to-do family as an only child, was privy to a good education, and had the opportunity to access higher education at the University of Michigan. As many people of privilege do, Frank often took for granted some of the luxuries he enjoyed. But because of an affliction he may have inherited, he was prone to bouts of depression. Fortunately, for him, he was able to work through these episodes, and with the passage of time and patience, he would come out of them to see clearly again.

The beauty of his home town, Green Bush, Michigan, was a recurring theme throughout the novel. On the shores of Lake Huron, his family not only owned a lovely farm, but also had a home in town, where Frank’s father owned and ran the local newspaper. Frank loved both, and when his mother sells them after the death of his beloved Dad, his bitterness towards her grew. She wanted him to continue his studies at Ann Arbor, ultimately leading to a professorship at a major university. He did enjoy his scholarly years, but the pull of rural life was stronger, especially when he falls in love with Ruth, a farmer’s daughter he meets when selling subscriptions in the nearby counties surrounding Green Bush.

When Frank’s mother dies after a period of estrangement between the two, he goes through another difficult phase struggling with the guilt he experiences stemming from their contentious relationship. Ultimately he grows content knowing that her decisions concerning his life, and what it should be, came from a place of sincere love and devotion.

The purchase of a small farm near Ruth’s family, along the birth of his daughter, proved to be the medicine Frank needed to come to a place of peace. Life was not without its setbacks, however. He was severely injured by a stump puller while clearing his land, which caused him to live with excruciating pain in his hip and legs for years, setting back his progress on the farm, as well as causing devastating financial burdens. That, and other issues, however, weren’t enough to tempt Frank into considering a job offer from the University of Michigan. He was held in high esteem by several faculty members, and when they offered him a full professorship, he knew in his heart what was most important to him. Ruth, baby girl Rose, and the farm would always be his first choice. They were his passion, his priority, and his much needed source of peace and contentment. Green Bush is a wonderful farm novel.

We would love to hear what you think - please leave a comment!