Omega Farm: A Memoir
A long-awaited memoir from an award-winning novelist—a candid, riveting account of her complicated, bohemian childhood and her return home to care for her ailing mother.
In March 2020, Martha McPhee, her husband, and their two almost-grown children set out for her childhood home in New Jersey, where she finds herself grappling simultaneously with a mother slipping into severe dementia and a house that’s been neglected of late. As Martha works to manage her mother’s care and the sprawling, ramshackle property—a broken septic system, invasive bamboo, dying ash trees—she is pulled back into her childhood, almost against her will.
Martha grew up at Omega Farm with her four sisters, five stepsiblings, mother, and stepfather, in a house filled with art, people, and the kind of chaos that was sometimes benevolent, sometimes more sinister. Caring for her mother and her children, struggling to mend the forest, the past relentlessly asserts itself—even as Martha’s mother, the person she might share her memories with or even try to hold to account, no longer knows who Martha is.
A masterful exploration of a complicated family legacy and a powerful story of environmental and personal repair, Omega Farm is a testament to hope in the face of suffering, and a courageous tale about how returning home can offer a new way to understand the past.
Praise for Omega Farm: A Memoir
“Compelling… McPhee’s prose is steady, her tone thoughtful. She examines events of the past from all angles. She is amazingly generous… [Her] carefulness adds to her credibility; she positions herself neither as victim nor saint but as someone who, she says, only wants to be good.”
"Expansive ... As she revisits the scene of her tumultuous childhood ... [she examines] the stories that sit behind her own ideas of family and sense of self."
“McPhee is an efficient, graceful writer, who makes no effort to spare her own flaws even as she searches for the roots of her mature turmoil in the shortcomings of adults who failed in the fundamental task of protecting her younger self.”
“Omega Farm is a moving memoir and an inspiring testament to forgiveness and hope.”
"McPhee is a captivating writer, gracefully weaving together the disparate strands of familial reckoning, the eerie pandemic years, and her evolving understanding of forest ecology... A potent exploration of the complicated project of revisiting a childhood and maintaining a family legacy."
—Kirkus, starred review
"Piercing...a courageous self-examination made of equal parts candor and compassion."
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Sharply observed, beautifully written, and blazingly honest, Omega Farm is the memoir I didn’t know to hope for – one that endeavors to make sense of that alien period around the pandemic when families reconfigured to shelter together. In this intimate family portrait, Martha McPhee returns to her childhood home where she's forced to confront a dark past while contending with a demanding present: a failing mother, an unhappy son, and a house and orchard in utter disarray. The book is a marvel, deftly telling the story of how we find out who we are, and what calls us to transcend.”
— Adrienne Brodeur, author of Little Monsters and Wild Game: My Mother, Her Secret, and Me
"In this unputdownable pandemic memoir about midlife spin-out, Martha McPhee recounts, with candor and grace, the raw, vital work of clearing the wreckage a chaotic childhood has left behind."
— Ada Calhoun, New York Times-bestselling author of Also a Poet and Why We Can't Sleep
“A hypnotic and moving tale about a daughter’s determination to restore the run-down family farm and forest of her idyllic, utopian childhood, only to be haunted by family secrets and memories she cannot undo. With grit and determination, Martha McPhee explores the hurts that define us, and the love that sustains.”
—Jill Bialosky, author of History of a Suicide: My Sister’s Unfinished Life and The Deceptions
“Martha's McPhee's Omega Farm, set against the backdrop of a global pandemic and the small family forest where she took shelter, manages to capture the trauma of childhood while also finding love, and healing. I will carry this story of her chaotic, vibrant beginning for a long time.”
—Mary Beth Keane, author of Ask Again, Yes and The Half Moon
“A beautiful, brutal tale of one woman’s reckoning with her childhood and awakening to the world around her. Immersive and unforgettable.”
—Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year and A Fortunate Age