“Real life is so much more interesting than fiction, and Patrick Irelan makes his family real. In his simple, straightforward style and living view of the past, Irelan shows us a clear view of his family's struggles and successes. We grieve for lives lost and dreams shattered. We wonder at their survival during the summer of the drought and the years of Depression on their small, infertile Iowa farm. We also gain a vivid picture of the railroad and the depots where both his father and mother worked. You'll like knowing these courageous, gutsy people and the time and place in which they lived.” —Evelyn Birkby, author of Up a Country Lane Cookbook
“In a spare, modest style, Irelan weaves a compelling narrative that is an elegy for a time past and a way of life lost, but also maintains a gentle optimism about the goodness of people and the solid foundation of family.”—Thomas K. Dean, The Iowa Source
Not so long ago, the Rock Island Railroad was a household name, the Great Depression was a recent memory, and family farms dotted the landscape. Today, the great railroads have nearly disappeared, the Depression is a chapter in history books, and family farms are hard to come by. Yet this time is not forgotten.
In Central Standard: A Time, a Place, a Family, Patrick Irelan vividly recaptures a remarkable era in midwestern history in twenty-four beautifully crafted and often witty essays. Beginning with his parents’ marriage in 1932 and continuing into the present, Irelan relates the many wonderful stories and experiences of his Davis County, Iowa, family. In “Country Living,” he describes his parents’ disheartening life as farmers during the worst years of the Depression. “The CB&Q” then relates the happiest years of his family’s life when his parents lived and worked in the Burlington Railroad depots of rural Nebraska.
Irelan’s tales of hard times and harder work, family meals and talkative relatives, depots and farmsteads paint a brilliant yet deceptively simple portrait of one rural, working-class family. At its heart, Central Standard carries a greater message: it reminds us of the enduring strength of the American family.