Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman's Journey
by Darcy Lipp-Acord

South Dakota State Historical Society Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-986-03555-5.
Reviewed by Susan Schoch
Posted on 07/15/2014

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: American Women in Their Cultural/Historical Context; Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment

In her new memoir, Darcy Lipp-Acord writes about how she learned to embrace the agricultural lifestyle to which she was born. She also affirms her voice as a writer. She explores her faith and motherhood, and the choices they demand, and brings alive the push and pull of compromise that makes an enduring marriage. She thinks about community. But most importantly, she writes that precious and still rare thing: the truth of a woman's life. Written over the course of a decade, the essays combined in Circling Back Home: A Plainswoman's Journey seem to be more than the sum of their parts.

In Lipp-Acord's spiraling story, the wobbling movement back and forth between memory and the present moment reflects something that many of us will recognize: the slightly messy quality of our progress. A chronology of changes and locations in this author's experience is hard to pin down, but it is not troublesome, and well represents the stew of living. What is clear from the beginning is her powerful need for a home place. The landscape that moves her is the high prairie, and she wants roots there. It takes time to learn that "home is as much about a way of life as it is about place."

The trail to that insight was not simple for Lipp-Acord, who grew up on a South Dakota farm, imprinted on the open sky. The family homestead formed her character, and the farming community was her model. Yet like many young people, she quit the farm without any intention of returning. She wanted something new, something other than the lives of her mother and grandmothers. She left home, went to college, and set out to make her own history.

Then a cowboy wooed and won her. She found herself shaping her days around his. Lipp-Acord became a cowboy's wife in the modern West. She shares vivid details, coming back many times to her gardening efforts as the metaphor for trying to grow a family while being continually uprooted. As she ponders what farming meant for her grandparents and parents, she is "sad for the end of a way of life..." and all too aware of how difficult that life is.

Ranching concerns aside, she is a contemporary woman faced with conflicted feelings about career, family needs, and financial insecurity, reflecting the difficulties of women everywhere. As her family grows to include six children, and both her own and her husband's careers progress in fits and starts, this woman with a strong ambition to write and an even stronger belief in being a helpmate, struggles to keep things in balance. She has studied home economics. She has studied literature. Both serve her well. She becomes a teacher and develops ranchwife skills. As we follow along, Lipp-Acord matures into confidence in her strengths and her own happiness, so that now she is able to acknowledge, "Although I strive toward a writing career, I find my life's real work in nurturing my family, in doing 'women's work.'"

Despite years of rejecting the place and labor of her grandmothers, Love circled this writer back home, as it does so many women. She learned to embrace the cowboy life that was her husband's calling, and discovered herself within it. Moving from place to place, she made the journey to her heart's true home. Because she writes well, and makes us care, it is a joy when Darcy Lipp-Acord can say, "I feel like I've finally arrived." How she gets there makes a fine story, one that might inspire, a good one to pass along to a friend.

Darcy Lipp-Acord grew up on her family's farm in Timber Lake, South Dakota. She currently works as a youth services librarian, and writes from a ranch near the Montana-Wyoming border, where she resides with her husband, Shawn, and their six children. An interview can be found on the publisher's website; she blogs at The Back Forty and Teen Lit Talk.

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