The Chinchilla Farm

The Chinchilla Farm by Judith Freeman.

The Chinchilla Farm was Judith Freeman’s first novel, it tells the story of Verna Flake. Raised a Mormon in a small town in Utah, and married to a stiflingly conventional adulterer, Verna has gotten tired of pretending. So she heads for Los Angeles, where people have the freedom to find themselves over and over again. There she connects with a woman from her past, and agrees to drive her to Mexico where a violent episode ensues. In this lyrical and keenly observant novel Judith Freeman captures the solitude, the dislocation, and the offbeat optimism of the American West in a way that raises comparison with Louise Erdrich.

The Chinchilla Farm was widely praised when it came out in 1989, and has not been out of print since. In The Nation, Pagan Kennedy wrote, “The Chinchilla Farm is a tremendous coup for a first novel, for any novel. Freeman reintroduces us to an America of transcendental landscapes, cultures like forgotten flowers, and festive, fierce cities.”

The New York Times called The Chinchilla Farm “a remarkable first novel. . . an almost Tolstoyian insight into the human plight,” and went on to say, “Judith Freeman has written a beautiful book.”

Diane Johnson, writing in the New York Review of Books, called Freeman’s first book an “elegiac novel,” and said that the narrator Verna Flake was “a rare creature, a reliable female narrator, whose preoccupations are with what she sees and learns about the world instead of with the resolution of her own story.”

The New Yorker said of The Chinchilla Farm: “Incidental to this novel is a plenitude of facts more wonderful than fiction‚ lyrical but tough-minded‚ extraordinary.”

And from Ursula K. Le Guin: “Under the plain honesty and generosity of Judith Freeman’s writing is a delicate and impressive artistic strength. I read The Chinchilla Farm right through as a fascinating story, but it lingers in my mind as a true journey through the desert of the West and of the soul.”