"Plowed Fields," a debut novel by Berrien County native Jim Barber, has been honored with two international literary awards for storytelling excellence.

The 11th annual eLit awards recently recognized the novel with the Gold Medal (first place) for its website presentation and the Silver Medal (second place) in the Literary Fiction category. The awards come on the heels of the book’s rise to No. 3 on Amazon’s bestseller list for literary sagas earlier this year.

Set in a fictionalized version of Berrien County, "Plowed Fields" tells the story of a South Georgia farm family struggling to make ends meet in the 1960s while dealing with the tough issues of their time.

Published by Morgan Bay Books, "Plowed Fields" can be purchased on Amazon.com and other major book retailers, as well as the author’s website, www.jimbarber.me. The book can be bought as a standalone novel or as part of a trilogy edition.

“Not since Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove have I read such a solid, unembellished portrayal of rural life lived out in fiction,” said bestselling author Janice Daugharty, whose novel "Earl in the Yellow Shirt" was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2011. “Plowed Fields is all that a family saga should be—natural, endearing, superbly written and enchanting. Jim Barber is a master storyteller.”

A state and national-award winning writer first as a newspaper reporter and later as a corporate journalist, Barber previously wrote and coedited four works of nonfiction, including "They Made Good Great: The Story of the 1969-1970 Berrien High School Rebelettes." He spent more than 10 years writing "Plowed Fields" after the idea came to him while covering the saga of a controversial and bedridden county sheriff in the mid-1980s.

“There were a lot of people for and against that sheriff, and I was intrigued by the rage and helplessness felt by both sides,” Barber said. “But it was the idea of people caught in the middle of something beyond their control that planted the seed for 'Plowed Fields.' Growing up, I never intended to write a novel, but this story just came in my head and demanded to be written.”

Readers and critics have praised the family saga..

“It’s thrilling to see the book recognized by readers and win awards; that’s something I never expected,” said Barber, who grew up in the 1970s working on his uncles’ tobacco farms in Berrien County. “I wrote the story to preserve a time and place in history that’s very special and to emphasize the need we all have for belonging and redemption.”

Presented by Jenkins Group Inc., one of the nation’s leading book publishing companies, the eLit Awards honor the best of English language digital publishing entertainment.

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