The Woefield Poultry Collective by Susan Juby

 

10366979“… A lightly funny and touching yarn about an endearing band of social wrecks who are impossible not to love.”                   -Publishers Weekly

 

This was a fun book! The story is told through alternating narratives, made up of the four misfits who have come, in one way or another, to be at Woefield Farm.

Prudence:

Prudence is a go-getter who is not afraid to stand up for what she believes in, no matter the situation. Whether she is arguing with the banker who has the power to foreclose on the farm, or bickering with an attractive man on their first date about his not-so-enlightened way of thinking.

She is a sustainability-obsessed, farmers’ market-loving, New York City girl, who inherits a Vancouver Island “farm” from her deceased uncle. She is thrilled about this! Here is her chance to prove to the world that living off the land is not only a possibility, but a joy. She imagines her life on the farm to be hard, but rewarding. She imagines herself as a valuable part of the community and farmers’ market. Well, that’s not quite what she gets.

Soon enough, she finds out that the bank is planning to foreclose on the property if she doesn’t come up with some money right away. So, out of desperation to save the farm, she tells the bank that, as well as farming, she is planning to be running a treatment center for addiction. This brings a whole new set of troubles to the farm, but Prudence perseveres. “Giving up” is not in her vocabulary.

I don’t know about you, but 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 sheaves of swiss chard at a reasonable price and talking knowledgably 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.

The basic rules of civility require that one deal with the unexpected in a gracious way.

I debated whether to tell them I had long since abandoned my writing career and moved onto radishes and fraud, but decided the timing was wrong.

I think enthusiasm counts for a lot in dancing and in life.

Earl:

Earl has been living on Woefield Farm with Uncle Harold for 35 years. He lives in his own small cabin on the edge of the field. Prudence assumes that Earl was her Uncle’s right-hand man, and knows his way around a farm. In reality, Uncle Harold didn’t actually do any farming, and the most Earl ever did was play his banjo, while Harold listened.

Earl is a curmudgeonly old man, who mostly just wants to be left alone. When Prudence starts putting him to work, he thinks it might be time for him to finally move on, but life has other plans for him.

I can only give a good goddamn about one place at a time and might as well give a shit about one with some young people on it , even if they are pains in the ass worse than I’ve ever known…

Seth:

Seth is a 21-year-old man/kid who is still living at home with his mother, spending all his time shut up in his room working on his celebrity and heavy metal blogs, and drinking beer. He ends up moving across the road to the farm when his mother makes him move out so her boyfriend can move in.

Seth is surprised that Prudence allows him to move in and work for his room and board, but he is even more surprised when he sees the lengthy to-do list she has for him. It’s a bit more work than he had in mind. Helping Prudence around the farm causes him to face his fears and his faults, as well as the farm chores. He’s not so sure if he is up for it.

Earl, describing Seth: He was a scrubby-looking bastard. He had that long, greasy hair some of them guys like and a hat with a skeleton on it pulled down almost to his nose and white shoes hanging open like he was too goddamn tired to tie them up. He was skinny everywhere but his belly. No colour in his face. Like I said, a scrubby-looking bastard. Seemed kind of nervous, too. Twitchy. Like maybe he was on drugs or something. A lot of young guys are now. On drugs, I mean. I saw it on TV.

Seth: Then she turned this pad of paper around and showed it to me. It said “To Do List” and it was about seventy-five pages and three thousand items long. There was substantial shit on there, too. Like “plant crops” and “fix roof” and “build barn” and “put in composting toilet”.

It’s been a pretty rough day. No sense making it worse with salad.

She smiled. Her teeth were extra white and probably not from bleaching but from inner purity or something.

My heart kind of hurt when I looked at her. Not because I was in love, but because I could tell from looking at her that she didn’t hate herself.  Not only didn’t she seem to hate herself, she barely seemed to think about herself. How f***ing glorious must that be?

I wondered how much I’d missed up to this point, which they say is something that happens to people who are newly sober. You know, you start to wake up and find that life’s not complete shit. Most of it is, but not all.

Sara:

Sara is an eleven-year-old girl with an unstable home-life, who is looking for a place to keep her prized chickens. Prudence agrees to keep them at the farm, and Sara starts spending a lot of her time there, right alongside the foul-mouthed farm hands (Earl and Seth).

Sara is a solemn girl who knows her own mind, and, despite all the faults she sees in her new friends, finds herself drawn to Woefield Farm none-the-less.

Prudence: 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.

Sara: Bethany, the girl at Poultry Club, talks a lot. All the time, practically. That’s part of how you know she’s not quite right. But Earl is really old and hardly talks at all except to swear. That may be what happens to slow people when they get old. I’m not sure. Slow old people are kind of rare, I think.

Being a leader is very tiring but also rewarding. It’s like we learned in Jr. Poultry: The secret for getting ahead is Getting Started. It seems like a lot of adults have trouble Getting Started. Or maybe they just get started on the wrong things.

Eustace:

Eustace does not officially belong to the Woefield Farm like the other four characters, but I couldn’t write a review without including him.

Eustace is the young, handsome veterinarian who comes to the farm after getting a call about the possibility of an abused sheep. Prudence, of course, for the sake of the farm, insists that they don’t have a sheep, then she accepts his invitation to dinner.

Prudence: I thought of Bertie: Bald, scratched, feet encased in maxipads and duct tape booties. Her belly cinched up with masking tape and lined with still more feminine hygiene products. She looked like one of those unfortunate creatures you see on the animal abuse websites. This handsome man wouldn’t understand and it wouldn’t do for us to get arrested. We’d end up in the papers, exposed as false treatment center operators and animal cruelty practitioners. Subterfuge was called for.

Even on her date with Eustace, Prudence holds strong to her values, despite the overwhelming attraction that threatens to overtake her senses.

I disapprove of industrial farming. Just so you know.

I gobbled this book up! I liked the story, but I especially liked the characters. They truly are impossible not to love. I recommend this book to anyone, unless you are sensitive to foul language. Seth and Earl can’t seem to get along without it, but I think it suits them.

I read this book right after reading The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, and I think I liked it just as much. A heartwarming story with a focus on farming instead of on books. And, if you were one of the ones to have read the 22 random things about me, you know that I secretly wish I lived on a farm. Yes, even after reading this book.

 

 

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14 thoughts on “The Woefield Poultry Collective by Susan Juby

  1. writereads says:

    Impressive that you’d still want to live on a farm after this one 🙂 I love Susan Juby’s stuff and was so glad to see that her turn at adult fiction was so successful. From the very beginning, I was cracking up over Leo’s reaction to Prudence’s recycling. Their whole break up had my laughing my head off and I knew that I was in good comedic hands. -Tania

  2. ebookclassics says:

    This book sounds like so much fun. I love the cover and title as well. Sometimes I think I want to live on a farm too and then I dig up my garden and go, “Eww, yuk, worms!”

  3. kmn04books says:

    Ooh, I hadn’t heard about this book before! I don’t know much about farming but this looks like a great book! Ps. I love that you said you “gobbled” this book up! Hehe. I’ll have to keep my eye out for it!

    • Naomi says:

      You definitely don’t need to know anything about farming to read this book. The people in the book certainly don’t! 🙂

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