Republic of Dirt
A Return to Woefield FarmBook - 2015
Prudence Burns is an overly idealistic Brooklyn girl who has inherited a derelict plot of land named Woefield Farm. Her motley crew of farm hands consists of Earl, an elderly, reclusive bluegrass legend; Seth, an agoraphobic heavy-metal blogger in early recovery from alcoholism; and Sara, an 11-year-old girl with a flock of elite show poultry.
When Prudence is felled by a thyroid condition, things on the farm begin to fall apart, resulting in valiant and sometimes ill-advised attempts to restore domestic bliss. Efforts are complicated by a renegade mule, attempts to turn a hideously ugly child's playhouse into a high-yield roadside farm stand, and an electrical station's worth of crossed wires. Will Prudence get well? Will Seth finally get rid of his pesky virginity? Will Earl rescue Sara? And will anyone, ever, admit they might be wrong?
Told in four highly distinct, unforgettably hilarious, and sometimes heartbreaking voices, Republic of Dirt is about what happens when passions collide with pride and what it takes to save each other, our small part of the planet, and ourselves.
From the critics
QuotesAdd a Quote
. . . I felt like a dog that someone was trying to give away to people who would just tie it in the backyard.
It had been so long since I’d heard writing that good that I was disoriented. True talent has that effect, I find. It’s so unexpected and undeniable. Like a poltergeist in the room.
I was feeling self-esteem. Unbelievable. Prudence is always yammering on about how every good decision makes it easier to make the next good decision, and how self-esteem is built one good decision at a time. I mostly tune her out, but I think she might be right.
SummaryAdd a Summary
Prudence, Seth, Earl and Sara are back, and this time they’ve got a mule. Having started to make a go of it raising organic veggies during the summer, things take a turn for the worse when uber-liberal Prudence falls ill and refuses to treat her thyroid condition with anything more than herbs and ‘energy thoughts’. Her decision-making skills – normally somewhat dubious being perkily obstinate about seeing what she wants to see – are highly impaired by her condition, and between exceedingly long naps she gives $4000 to a contractor with a gambling addiction to build a barn, buys a condemned playhouse to convert into a road-side stand, and purchases the most mulish mule that ever lived and optimistically names it “Lucky”.
Trying to pick up the slack, Seth (a recovering alcoholic-agoraphobic) and Earl (the elderly curmudgeon who mixes metaphors) do their best to take care of 11-year-old Sara and the farm. However they have their own ways of doing things, and when good intentions collide, Sara is left vulnerable and in danger. She is forced to leave the farm and live with her separated parents, both of whom are so wrapped up in their own misery they pay little attention to their daughter. Things get a lot worse before they get better.
But there is a reason these four characters found each other before, and little by little (and with two big bollockings from Seth and Sara), the residents of Woefield find their way back to being a family unit, a team. And before winter settles in, the family unit expands to include a few more eccentric but ultimately decent folk who feel the charismatic pull of Woefield Farm. Told in alternating voices and perspectives of the four main characters, Republic of Dirt is just as laugh-out-loud funny as Susan Juby’s first Woefield novel, just as touching, and just as full of good family feeling and heart. A great late-winter read.
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