Booking It (April Update: The Dirty Life)

Booking It is an online book club where we discuss what we’ve read over the past month as well as review a monthly assigned book. This month’s book is  The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball.

Thank you for keeping my head in a book. Man, it’s easy to drift toward cereal boxes and blog posts. Not that those aren’t worthy reads in and of themselves, but a real book with real pages and the portability to go anywhere seems to keep me grounded in real life.

And so this little book club helps me keep “in the real world”.

A few months ago, I consulted AnneCarrie, and Janel to create a reading list for this year. I culled suggestions from a reader survey and then the four of us bounced them around in our heads. These sweet ladies gave me feedback and ideas for books that would be good to read.

All this to say I share the credit and the blame for whatever books we delve into together. Bwahaha.

This month I read a hodge-podge of things (and yes, read ahead), but today I’m just going to talk about  The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball. It’s the story of a NY-based writer who meets and eventually marries a down-to-earth farmer and enters the world of real food and sustainable agriculture. Since I love food and have farmer roots and an interest in better food for my kids, I was intrigued by the concept.

Recently, Carrie posted her review of this book. And I must say we had many of  the same thoughts,

I was intrigued by the reviews and excited to see what Kimball had to say. I think that expectations are more than half the reason you either love a book (because it exceeds low expectations), or you dislike a story (because expectations were set high).

Like Carrie, my expectations of the book were high. And unfortunately, it didn’t completely live up to my expectations.

What I Loved

I absolutely loved Kimball’s stories about the farm. I loved hearing about old farming processes which were exactly the way my great-grandfather Sigurd Borge farmed his land and fed his family seventy years ago. I loved the stories of old-timers coming alongside these young whippersnappers who had the crazy notion of farming in old school ways — without being Amish.

I loved the stories of tasty food made from scratch. Well, except for things like head cheese and blood sausage. Those are items from my dad’s childhood that I have happily lived without.

My nostalgia ran deep as her tales of vintage farming methods finding new life recalled memories of my dad’s tales of life on the farm.

My grocery geekiness just oozed with excitement as I read of good, wholesome food and was inspired by the meals created from those ingredients.

My somewhat-scientific mind loved hearing about how the taste of cow’s milk can differ based on what the cow eats. And I loved talking with my dad about all these things after I finished the book.

What I Didn’t

It was the “love story” I could do without. I’m not exactly sure why but the love story just fell flat. It didn’t encourage me. It didn’t make me go, “Awwwwwwwwww.” It was more a part of the story to endure rather than enjoy. The book might have been better without that aspect? I dunno.

The love story of Kristin and her husband clearly added a touch of realism and modernity to the book. Hers is a feminist background, his a hippy one. If it were all milk-cows and pigs, then it might have been a simple Amish tale. But, theirs certainly isn’t an Amish love story.

I enjoyed the book, but I confess, I was disappointed. My expectations were higher than the reality. But, I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Have you been Booking It?

Tell us about the books you’ve read! If you read The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball, be sure to tell us what you thought of it.

Check out the list of 12 books that we’ll be reading together this year. Next up in May – Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson.



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Comments

  1. Well, I WAS going to link up both the book that unexpectedly surprised me (which I DID), as well as my review of “The Dirty Life”, but thanks to your kind post, I don’t have to link that one. :-) Agree, agree, agree. The farming part was interesting, but the love story was flat. I SO wanted to like this book, but I just didn’t. {sigh} Let’s hope Miss Pettigrew does better, eh?!

  2. I agree too about the love story part of this book. I just came away with how hard of work this back to homesteading/living off the land lifestyle is. I felt exhausted for her. I wish I had that much passion.

  3. I didn’t like The Dirty Life very much either. There’s very little joy in it.

    In my post I listed minireviews of several books about farming. You should put You Can Farm on your BookIt list for next year. It’s inspiring and is about so much more than farming!

    I’ve read other books this month too, and they are listed at the beginning of this: http://anniekateshomeschoolreviews.com/category/52-books-in-52-weeks/

    Thanks for hosting!

  4. I also felt the same about The Dirty Life, which I read a few months ago, and since I’m next door in Vermont, I may try to go over to see the farm in one of their open farm days. I did find the farming part interesting.

    I’ve read five more books this month:
    http://journeytoasimplelife.com/2012/04/12/april-reading-list-2/

  5. I checked The Dirty Life out of the library THREE separate times but never got it read. Thanks to you and Carrie for your honest assessment to just skip it and read something better.

    (I loved the lighthearted, offbeat Miss Pettigrew. I’m interested to hear your take!)

  6. I agree with your assessment of The Dirty Life… I know farming is very hard work, as I was a County Extension Agent for 18 years, but she really seems overly exhausted> Must be because they started from scratch and wanted/needed to build the farm very quickly…or else her “city girl” lifestyle did not prepare her for this hard life. At any rate, it makes us realize how much work is involved in our food supply and makes me grateful for farmers! My reads this month included “Nightwoods” by Charles Frazier who wrote “Cold Mountain”. I loved his writing and story because it reminds me of my childhood in the 1960′s and where I grew up (North Carolina). He is an excellent storyteller and I wish he would write more books! I also read “Twelve by Twelve” about a cabin off the grid _ lots of food for thought in this one about what we want in life, ecology, personal relationships, etc. I quickly read ” The Best of Me” by Nicholas Sparks which I liked until close to the end when he wrapped up the story in a totally unrealistic way. I keep forgetting how much I despise his stories!!

  7. This book is on my nightstand right this red hot minute. I haven’t started it though. It’s a library book, so I’d better get crackin. Thanks for your review.

  8. i mean absolutely to not offend anyone in what i am about to say…

    i had never heard of the book. i didn’t take the love story as the central plot. I know it’s in the title but to me i thought it was more of a side note. my major gripe and maybe i just don’t get it. why would you ever want to use horses when we have machinery? does the food taste better when the fields are plowed by horses? I understand organic, local and sustainable but why make it harder on yourself than need be?

    • havent read the story and dont know the circumstances but farm equipment is VERY EXPENSIVE. Perhaps that is why they used what was available to them?

      • Jessica Fisher says:

        Not really. The man wanted to build a house without nails. I think they just had an affinity for older, traditional methods.

  9. I read this several months ago so it isn’t the freshest in my mind. I do remember loving the farming part. I remember thinking some part of the story was underdeveloped, probably the love story based on what y’all are saying. I enjoyed it overall, as I loved reading about the cows, their farming practices, and the food they made.

  10. Another agree here. Felt rather sad at the end because it was more enduring than joy in the farming. Soo much work doing things that way.
    I did get excited about our garden this year and making more whole food choices for my family. Also inspired to get cows for meat again. Just gotta fix our fences so I don’t have to chase cows. :)

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