Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Flat Broke with Two Goats by Jennifer McGaha

I always enjoy reading memoirs about men and women who leave the city for the country and learn a lot about themselves in the mud, muck and hard work that living in the country can bring. I saw this memoir at Barnes and Noble and realized it had been awhile since I'd read a back to the farm memoir.  I just couldn't resist. 

Maybe it's because at this stage in my life I'm also rediscovering the joy of nature; walking in the woods, up and down hills, getting my clothes caught on thorny bushes, stepping in deer poop. All because of my love for my man. As I sit here at home, I can see my camouflage boots near the front door, in a plastic bag to keep all the gunk off the floor until I need them again. Definitely not boots to put on to go the the grocery store. 

What makes this memoir different from others I've read are the circumstances that bring Jennifer and David McGaha to a little cabin in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina.  After years of living in suburbia, enjoying their home, spending money on private school for their three children, David confesses to Jennifer that he hasn't paid taxes for years.  As an accountant with his own business, David knew better.  But the economic collapse of the late 2000's saw his client base drop dramatically, which directly impacted his income.  Not willing to let Jennifer know just how bad it was, he kept it to himself.  Jennifer, for her part, did nothing to be aware of the finances they shared as a married couple.  She worked part time, and enjoyed life without too many responsibilities.  She found out too late, and after David's confession, they lost their house and pretty much everything they had-including friendships.  Their marriage strained, David finds a cabin to rent, for a few hundred dollars a month.  It needs a lot of work, but it's a place to start over.  Reluctantly, Jennifer agrees to move to the cabin.  Angry with David, she's having a really hard time transitioning from suburbia to country life.  David, however, is thriving  with the manual labor it takes to keep the wood burning boiler running, continue to make improvements to the cabin, and working from home to rebuild his business.  

A lot of this memoir is about the strained relationship between Jennifer and David, and how they got to their present situation.  Jennifer tells a lot of stories about their early years, and also about her grandparents, who were Appalachian through and through.  As they decide to invest in chickens for eggs, and then take the big step to buy goats for making goat cheese and soap, Jennifer and David start to find peace in the shared work of cabin life.  Often times completely broke, with no money in the bank and a few dollars in their wallets, they make do with what they have, and find satisfaction in their surroundings and peace of the waterfall that faces their cabin.  Slowly, they begin to build their life again.  

I loved this memoir for a few things: this was about a couple who had it all, and lost it all.  They had to start over in their late 40's.  It was about a marriage that  was damaged, and required a lot of work to repair.  It didn't happen overnight.  It was about two people who realized having physical things wasn't important, and often times those "things" were just crutches to get them through the days.  Sitting on the porch at sunset, sipping a beer, with soup on the stove--that was happiness.  Being surrounded by nature, and appreciating the power and beauty of it; that was peaceful.  This stripping away of the noise of modern life gave Jennifer and David the opportunity to figure out what they wanted out of life, not what others expected or wanted them to do.  Pretty powerful.  

Rating:  4/6 for a memoir about starting over, accepting blame and being honest with yourself; and in doing so, finding your purpose.  Recipes included in each chapter all sounded really delicious, and if you're so inclined, you too can make your own goat milk soap in a crockpot.  

Available in paperback, audio, and ebook.

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