Friday, March 11, 2011

Review: Home to Woefield by Susan Juby

There is a trend right now for adults to read YA literature. Being the cantakerous reader than I am, I still don't read much of it, not because I think it's of a lesser quality but because most of the premises I've seen haven't appealed to me much. This first novel targeted at adults by YA author Susan Juby appealed to me greatly though. The idea of a native New Yorker with back to the land ambitions inheriting a scrubby farm in Canada and moving there to try her hand at farming sounds like just my type of book. I've read a number of these in memoir form but I hadn't yet come across this story in fiction until now. Just let me say that I enjoyed this book so much that I fully intend to go back and read Juby's YA works (and maybe even pass them along to the YA reader in my house if they are as entertaining as this book was).

Told in four narrative voices, that of Prudence, who has inherited the farm and its seemingly insurmountable debts from her late uncle; Sara, the eleven year old girl who moves her chickens to Woefield Farm; Earl, the cranky septugenarian farm hand who came with the farm; and Seth, the twenty-one year old alcoholic blogger from across the road who moves in when his mother kicks him out. It is indeed a woeful and motley crew of characters but they are completely hilarious and charming. Prudence is delightfully naive, certain she can make the farm a paying proposition based on her extensive reading of "moving and starting over" memoirs. She is uber-positive and incredibly motivated, if as innocent of the necessities involved with farm life as a newborn chick. She is indeed a cheerful force to be reckoned with.

To start with, Prudence must face the dire financial situation on the farm that she is so determined will fulfill her dream of living sustainably. In order to buy a little time, she decides to hoodwink the bank by telling them that she is opening the farm up as a treatment center, using the alcoholic Seth as a dummy client. And somehow she pulls it off but then she is landed with a local mother desperate for help with her sullen, drug-abusing teenaged daughter in tow as well as the local writing group who has learned that Prudence is a published author (the fact that her novel was poorly received and almost unknown seems to dissuade the group about her skills not at all). As Prudence juggles the situations she's created for herself, jaded Earl goes about the farm trying to build the things that Prudence's visions require, Seth fights his demons, and Sara stoically endures a demoralizing home life.

The plot is not overly complicated and the main focus of the story is on building relationships more so than building a productive farm. Watching the four very disparate characters come together is great fun and having the differing perspectives on each disaster as it befalls them is wonderful. Where else can so many characters riff on a sheep wearing maxi-pads taped to her hooves and sides? Each of the characters has a very distinct voice. They're unique and quirky and I enjoyed spending time with them. One reservation about this charmingly entertaining read is that the ending is a little too easy, a little too deus ex machina although as it stands, we could certainly see a future trip to Woefield Farm for more. While Juby raises some interesting issues, the green movement and sustainability, alcoholism, politics, and dysfunctional family dynamics, she doesn't dig too deeply into them here, keeping the novel breezy and light, goofy and generous, tenderhearted and warm. I have to admit that I turned the last page of this one with a big grin on my face. I liked it. I really, really liked it.

For more information about Susan Juby and the book visit her webpage and her blog where she's the best kind of goofy/funny around. You can also follow her on Twitter: @thejuby.

Tune in to the interview Book Club Girl is going to with Susan Juby on Blog Talk Radio on Tuesday, April 5th at 4:00pm PT (7:00pm ET).

Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and the publisher for sending me a copy of the book for review.

1 comment:

  1. This one sounds like such a fun book. I'm at a point in my life that I really need books that don't make me think TOO deeply but rather that I can simply ENJOY. I definitely need to get a copy of this one!


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