You wouldn’t think a book about farmers would be interesting. You’d only be half right. This book is half fictional account of a trio of brothers, and half history lesson about the United States from World War I on. The narrative, which also includes a modern protagonist, jumps around in time, and weaves its way through a central hub–the August Sander photograph pictured on the cover of the book of the three farmers. Along the way we hear the tales of Henry Ford and his peace ship, Sarah Bernhardt and various other historical figures. It’s certainly not your typical historical fiction novel, though, as these figures don’t actually interact with our fictional characters, but act as context and the sort of connective tissue that bonds disparate people and generations together. In weaving these tales the author, Powers, points out the devastating power of war, the design of family and the construction and philosophy of photography. Portions of the book felt like the film theory theses I was forced to read in college, as Powers digs into the societal and historical affect an of photography in great detail. While a lot of this was interesting stuff, it made the novel feel a little disjointed and oddly academic at points. He tends to espouse theoretical ideas like this throughout the book on several topics, and while they are all interesting arguments–and tend to make you think about things in ways you may never have approached them–they feel like they’re parts of several different theses, all of which would have been interesting enough in themselves, but together make things a little too convoluted. Overall, the book leaves an impression on you and is oddly informative and mystical at the same time. For something different from your typical straight forward fiction, it is certainly a cool read.