Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Another Memoir Review: The Bucolic Plague

How Two Manhattanites became Gentlemen Farmers
An Unconventional Memoir

Author: Josh Kilmer-Purcell
Format: Harper (2010), Edition: 1, Hardcover, 320 pages
Subject: goat farming in rural New York, middle year life changes
Setting: Upstate New York
Genre: memoir
Source: public library

Two gentlemen with great New York City jobs--one, Dr. Brent Ridge, works for Martha Stewart, the other--the author--is an advertising agency rep, when they decide on an impulse to buy an old mansion they discover while on their annual apple picking trip. They take on the task of re-doing the mansion, putting in a huge garden, and also take on 70 goats and a goat farmer to tend them.  The plethora of goat milk leads to a booming online business selling hand-made goat milk soap.  Ahh....the bucolic life is wonderful ....except...

They are the stereotypical gay yuppie couple trying to have it all--living at the mansion on the weekends while still working full time in the city, driving and training  back and forth, weeding, painting, pickling,  weeding, canning, entertaining, weeding, sweeping flies (you gotta read the book), slaughtering a home grown turkey for a REAL Thanksgiving, etc etc etc.  They are spending so much time trying to be perfect, that their relationship begins to suffer.  When Brent is 'pink-slipped' by Martha, and  Josh becomes disgusted with the advertising world and quits his job, they suddenly find themselves without a steady income, with a business that is severely impacted by the economic downturn that cost Brent his job, and with emotions they are not used to dealing with. They are in danger of losing everything---the mansion, the farm, themselves and their relationship.

Told with compassion, wit, and a unexpectedly deep understanding of human emotion and vulnerability, this is a well-written memoir of middle-aged reflection and contemplation.  On his thirty-ninth birthday, spent alone in his garden, Josh reflects that
Flowers don't blossom then disappear into thin air.  They fade.  Then the plant drops its leaves. Then the stem browns. And then the whole thing topples over.  I figured I was lucky to have been as colorful a bloom as I had been.... pg 225.
Their ability to see the beauty and positives in their lives, including the friendships they formed in the small town,  allows them to muddle through and arrive at the other side of their troubles with a recommitted relationship, a re-energized business, and  a future that bodes well.

I especially appreciated the respect that he shows for the rural life style and his neighbors. In the front of the book he states:
This is a memoir of a certain time in my life.  The names of the characters have been changed, and some are composites of various people, experiences, and conversations...If you think that unfair, you've obviously never lived in a small town and written a memoir about your neighbors.
I live in a small town, and my only regret is that we don't get Planet Green on our TV....the two now have their own show The Fabulous Beekman Boys At least Dr. Brent has his own blog about the farm and their enterprise so we can keep up with what happens next.  It's a delightful story told with candor, humor, love and respect.


  1. This one intrigues me. I do have a copy; hope I can read it in early 2011.

  2. Thanks for reminding me about this book ... I so want to read it!


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