Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Transition Not So Easily Done--'City girl' to sustainable farmer...

Home to Woefield by Susan Juby
(Published as The Woefield Poultry Collective in Canada)
Prudence is a published author. 
Well, to be honest and forthcoming, she did write a YA book entitled 
The Sun Doesn't Forgivea "parable about the ramifications of global warming 
and the need for personal responsibility." (Just what every teen wants to read, eh?)
She realizes her "book deal was largely a matter of timing," and a good friend's 
well-meaning advocacy with her publisher, stating this book was "a sure thing."
She was "booked to speak at nearly every middle and high school in the state" 
by the publishing company.
Although the teachers weren't very interested in the subject...
they were enthusiasm personified compared to the kids, who were often actively hostile.
I was chum in the shark tank at my readings. (5)
Yep! This is it! This self-deprecating mildly mocking humor makes this book such an enjoyable read. Juby's sarcasm and wit are timely and well-done.
We learn that Prudence really dreams of becoming a sustainable farmer. 
...for me there came that moment during every visit 
to the farmers' market when I wanted more.
I wanted to be the one standing behind the folding table, 
a truck of organic produce at my back, displaying my heirloom tomatoes and baby potatoes. I want to be the one handing over glossy leaves of swiss chard at a reasonable price and talking knowledgeably about my mushroom patch. 
The one looking cold and somewhat chapped about the face 
and hands, yet more alive than anyone else in 
unfashionable rubber boots and dirty pants. 
Obviously, I had no desire to be the one in the lace-edged 
bonnet accompanied by a stern-faced, black-hatted man 
and a brood of six children. 
I want to be that other person at the farmers' market. 
The one with ideals and produce to sell. (1)

This, however, would be an 'unsustainable dream' for an occupant of a "six-hundred-square-foot apartment" in Brooklyn. A person who has never actually lived where she might grow anything other than a plant in a pot. Unless, or until...that person inherits her only remaining relative's farm, located on Vancouver Island off the coast of Canada. 
I'm just sorry that Uncle Harold had to die for my dream of moving to the country to come true. (7)

I admit to being a bit put off by the first character introduced in this rural Canadian community, Seth. If I hadn't recently read (and truly disliked) Smashed, Squashed, Splattered, Chewed, Chunked and Spewed I probably wouldn't have been so sensitive about this type of totally disrespectful, dysfunctional, addicted 'teenager-wannabe' who is well beyond the age when he should be out of his mother's house and making a life for himself, if not for that recent reading debacle previously mentioned, I could have easily accepted this and gone on... But I really had to talk myself into reading beyond this first character's introduction, and to recognize it was simply my negative reaction to the other book that had me so leery of dysfunctional characters, and I should give Juby a chance. I think I was fearful that every character would be as dislikable, but that didn't prove to be the case and I was glad I ventured on! Virtually every character in this book has their own unique challenges (or has had), but only Seth appeared truly unable to cope with overcoming his challenges, and eventually he seems to be making much progress. Prudence retains her eternal optimism throughout the book, which, admittedly seemed a bit surrealistic at times, but it worked overall. 

Needless to say, Earl, who had stayed on the farm with Prudence's Great-Uncle Harold for decades is shocked to learn he is only entitled to 10% of the earnings from or sale of the farm. Whereas Prudence has inherited the actual land and buildings. Though it sounds as if the land isn't fertile/productive, basically full of rock once you dig down a few inches. So Prudence wisely decides to haul in dirt and create raised beds for the organic produce she intends to raise. Once she realizes there is no barn, she begins asking whether "rural people still enjoy barn raising." Earl is a grumbler and a grump and the juxtaposition of these two constantly being together creates much humor, as he grumbles indistinctly about "goddamn Mennonites." ;) Prudence worked as a barista in New York and the coffee she served "could burn the nuts off a lumberjack," according to Earl, who likened it to "drinking engine grease." 

The aforementioned Seth is displaced from his bedroom in his mother's house by her boyfriend, who is moving in and will be using the extra bedroom to store his remote control helicopter parts. No kidding... :) So he loads up his stuff and walks across the road to knock on Prudence's door, asking for a place to stay, which she grants to him, in exchange for work. I immediately suspect this little deal will probably not last long, given that Seth appears to be a fairly unmotivated person about anything much other than consuming alcohol. Oh, and, of all the irony...blogging! ;) He maintains two blogs, one about heavy metal bands and the other about celebrity gossip. 

Prudence then inherits chickens from Sara Spratt, a very smart and motivated child of eleven years of age who is determined to be a leader. As you might expect, Sara actually ends up living on the farm, too. Her mother basically drops her off, abandoning her, as she goes somewhere to get some help for her emotional instability, and hopefully to file for divorce from an abusive husband. Since there is no outbuilding where the chickens can live, they undertake to construct one:
The building of Sara Spratt's chicken coop took approximately the same amount of sweat, swearing and human sacrifice as the Pyramids. Possibly a little more. (69)
Ha! Ha! It did indeed. The first trip to Home Depot by Earl and Seth proved only so fruitful, since Earl only purchased about half of the materials on Sara's list. Their is a very humorous chapter about Prudence's trip to purchase the remaining materials! It seems staff to help customers are few and far between, and most know how to hide and avoid being 'helpful' at all! Then the actual construction process...let's just say that Sara had to come in and specifically direct the construction since neither Earl nor Seth had a clue what they were trying to do. I might not have believed this possible if I hadn't been in a similar situation myself at the age of 12. My uncle, who was the "Farm Director" for a local radio station, farmed one of the small farms owned by the station. When it came time for him to plant crops that first spring, he could not figure out how to setup the planter, so I stayed with them one weekend, reading the manual and walking him through it all. Seriously. He was NOT just humoring me. He really had no idea. Thinking of that always makes me chuckle. So I could relate to Sara's plight. 

I had to laugh because Earl felt that Prudence wasn't "quite right," a little "slow." Sara has only one friend, Bethany, from the Poultry Club.
She's kind of slow but not exactly retarded. I
t makes it hard because you don't know whether to encourage her to try to be smarter 
or be nice to her for trying, the way you would if she was definitely retarded. 
Earl, the man who works at Woefield, seems a little like Bethany.
He might not be handicapped but he doesn't seem totally normal either. (78)
Though honestly, who truly is "normal"? I contend there is no such thing! :) Sara obviously feels Earl is somewhat impaired. If it weren't for Prudence I'm not sure any of them would have a chance of improving themselves, except Sara--she is one determined young lady! And Sara is struggling with Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, as well as the Bible, both of which have been given to her by Bethany's parents, who also take her to church with them every Sunday. I could relate to this, as I became absorbed in a "church" when I was just a bit older than Sara. In retrospect, the tween and teen years are the most likely for such belief systems to seem appealing, or at least interesting, as hormones are surging and emotions tend to run amok within us during these years. Much of religious belief, in my humble opinion, can be tracked to emotional appeal, or even manipulation, at its extreme. 

Sara is determined they care for Bertie, the lone half-shorn sheep. However, once they try to trim her way overgrown, distorted hooves, and then try to shear her, chaos ensues and blood is everywhere...on Gertie, Seth, and Earl! It is just as Prudence is attempting to sort all this out that an extremely handsome man in an oversized gas-guzzling pickup truck shows up. This would be Dr. Eustace Smith, the local veterinarian, checking to see if they had a sheep and what condition it was in. Prudence feels it necessary to lie, though the truth is eventually revealed. Dr. Smith is useful though since he evidently overcame his own addiction challenges and becomes Seth's "sponsor" as he tries to quit drinking. And there is the fact that Prudence seems to be wild about him and he really likes her. On their first date, Prudence thinks to herself:
I really wanted to let him know that I disapproved of industrial farming techniques and 
the vets who made it possible for farmers to raise animals in unnatural conditions. 
But I didn't want to get too strident because that would 
ruin our date and he was very good-looking. 
"I disapprove of industrial farming," I said. "Just so you know." 
"I'm not crazy about the Canucks lineup this year. And you are very pretty," he said.
His knee was back on mine. 
I decided to change his values later. (194)
Ha! Ha! I guess there's a time and a place for everything, right?!? :)

What I appreciated most about this book was the way these characters all interacted with one another and learned to get along, even to respect each other for their abilities and skills, learning to overlook less desirable characteristics. And isn't that really what life is about? Perhaps two of the most unlikely to become friends were Sara and Earl, though Sara begins talking to Earl one evening:
I went and sat on the porch with him and told him how my dad hit my mom with the tuna casserole. He told me some things about when he was a kid and said that families was damned complicated. It was the first time he swore the whole night, which was a sign that he's trying. 
I think Earl is one of my best friends that I know. (199)
Awwww...that's so sweet! Seth talks Sara into trying to cheat at the poultry show, which is discovered by one of the judges who is kind enough to simply withdraw Alec Baldwin from the competition rather than reporting it. The scenes at the local fair brought back memories of my sons showing hogs and us spending our days at the county fair. Of course, I was running a 4-H booth and spent a whole day grilling porkburgers and hamburgers. Have you ever run one of those open grills in the hottest part of the midwestern US summer? How about ALL. DAY. LONG? After a couple of hours I my arms and face were like a greased hog, no one could have grabbed me and held on to me if they tried. Thank goodness I was wearing an long apron which covered most of my clothing, 'cause I felt as if I'd been "grilled" by the end of the day! :) I looked it, too!

Sara lands in the hospital, Seth ends up showing Miss Frizz for her and winning first prize, Prudence hosts a huge blue grass music concert at the farm that she believes is going to create enough profit to catch up the farm payments, and...Earl is reunited with his brother.

This was definitely an "all's well that ends well" book.
The characterization was bit superficial for me.
I enjoyed it, but not as much as Naomi @ Consumed by Ink did!
Here is her review!
Unlike Naomi, I would not directly relate this one to The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
which I adored

Have you read a book by Susan Juby? 
I might give Alice, I Think a try. 
It is classified as "Young Adult."
And if I have the opportunity 
which as you might expect, 
is a sequel to this book. 

What have you read lately 
that you "enjoyed," 
but did not "love"? 


  1. I sympathize with you about surly teens! That's a type of stock character I can very rarely be bothered with these days, even if the teen in question has every right to be surely based on life circumstances. :p

    1. Dealing with my own children as teens was quite enough for me! I'm just thrilled all of us lived through it! :)