From the page after the dedication page:
“This is a memoir of a certain time in my life. The names of some characters have been changed, and some are composites of various people, experiences, and conversations I had then. If you think that’s unfair, you’ve obviously never lived in a small town and written a memoir about your neighbors.”
Author’s caution (from the page after that):
“This book is not about living your dream. It will not inspire you. You will not be emboldened to attempt anything more than making a fresh pot of coffee.”
Josh Kilmer-Purcell goes on with that quote to compare The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentleman Farmers, an Unconventional Memoir to other memoirs that are “written by courageous souls who have broken with their past, poetically leaving behind things such as drugs, career ennui, and bad relationships.” Of course he’s writing with tongue firmly in cheek, and as an advertising exec, he’s learned the value in setting the bar low so as to exceed expectations.
In spite of his disclaimer, this book does address career ennui, relationships, and does inspire one to figure out how to live “Your Best Life Now.”
After buying a mansion and farm with his partner Brent as a weekend getaway from their busy lives in Manhattan, Josh was inspired after attending an Oprah taping to figure out how he could really live his best life. He decided that his best life would be living full time in the bucolic setting of their new country home, growing vegetables, raising goats and becoming a part of the local community.
His partner Brent receives his inspiration from another media mogul: Martha Stewart, for whom he works as a “wellness expert.” After an appearance on her show, their goat’s milk soap business and their Beekman1802 “brand” takes off, causing what was meant to be an escape and a place of restoration to become a plague — on their relationship and to their time off.
The humor in this book kept me flying through the pages, as did Brent and Josh’s struggles and extraordinary experiences (like creating and cooking from an heirloom garden). Kilmer-Purcell is right that he is not writing to change the reader’s life, as some memoirists seem to set out to do. The fact that he’s just sharing his experience helps it to avoid that completely self-important trap that many memoirists fall into.
I came to care about this farm, the community, and its owners. I wanted to see them succeed, because their effort and intent was valiant, but also to prove to myself that it was possible to go for it and achieve your dream.
I loved this book. I’m surprised at how much I loved this book. It seemed to end somewhat abruptly (maybe because I just wanted it to go on and on?), but I was reminded that real life doesn’t tie itself up neatly with pat resolutions. It earned the 5 Stars Read label.
The good news is that the Fabulous Beekman Boys can be followed on the small screen starting June 16 on Discovery’s Planet Green (follow the link to read my review of the two episodes I previewed).
The other good news is that I have a copy of The Bucolic Plague to give away to one of you. Please leave a comment if you’d like to win. We’ll announce the winner on June 23.
After being raised in the suburbs of the 4th largest city in the U.S., Houston, Jennifer Donovan loves her bucolic existence in small town Connecticut. She blogs at Snapshot about her life as a mom, but never about goats or heirloom gardens.