June 26, 2013
Bootstrapper by Mardi Jo Link
I expected something entirely different than what I got from this book. The title "Bootstrapper: From Broke to Badass on a Northern Michigan Farm" and the description provided online and on the back cover led me to believe this would be a book about farming, gardening, raising animals with maybe just a little bit of memoir throw in. But it wasn't, it was a memoir with a little bit of gardening thrown in.
Mardi Jo's marriage has just ended (her choice) and she is now faced with the looming debt of a mortgage on her small acreage. In addition she has to keep other bills paid and food on the table for her three sons which is no small feat on a freelance writer's salary. And her first year in this separation is plagued by mishaps that make it difficult to keep a positive outlook on things. But she wants to keep her sons by her side and keep their home, so she does everything she can to try to save it.
Mardi Jo makes some questionable decisions in this book. And while I admire her perseverance there were times I just wanted to shake her when she was doing some things. She has a lot of financial woes but still manages to get vodka and other drinks through the course of the year, and while I understand the need to have a few guilty pleasures it makes me wonder why she didn't get a job waitressing to be able to afford little extras (she had held a waitressing job previously during her marriage). Her sons were all intelligent and helpful and they seemed to get her through a lot. And she freely admits that despite trying to do things right, she may have been a bit of an emotional burden for them. But I think it's clear that she loves them and that was a redeeming feature of this book. Her ex is mentioned but isn't in the book very often; although I did think it was weird she disclosed his pot habit in this book when it was part of their custody agreement that she keep quiet about it.
Because I expected this to be about farming and not more focused on Mardi Jo's divorce it made it a very hard read. Had the description not made it lean that way, I probably wouldn't have chosen to read this book if it were just described as a memoir about a woman going through a divorce and struggling to make ends meet and who happens to own a few acres in Northern Michigan. Because that is what this book was. Sure there were little side stories about getting chickens and planting vegetables, but they maybe took up less than a chapter of this book when combined. And the writing was a bit disjointed, at one point she's writing about her horse and I have no idea what's going on until several pages later when she finally adds some detail. I think she was trying to write how she felt in the moment and her confusion, but it just added more confusion to the reader who couldn't experience those things firsthand and sort them out. She does have a humorous style of writing, but it just doesn't flow well in this book.
Having recently been in Traverse City I can appreciate the scenery descriptions in this book but that and a few small stories about hobby farming were all I really enjoyed. If you are looking at this book for the "farm" part of it you may feel the same as me, but if you like a memoir about a scrappy woman who does the best she can to raise her sons, you might enjoy it for that aspect.
**This review is part of the Amazon Vine Program**